Alpine hotel accuses appraisal district of discrimination

ALPINE – Owners of the Quality Inn at 2401 East Highway 90 in Alpine have fi led a civil lawsuit in 394th District Court here charging the Brewster County Appraisal District with an unfair appraisal because the hotel is owned by Indian natives Sam and Dick Bhakta. The petition alleges that “an analysis of the 2017 tax rolls would reveal that the tax valuations for non-white motel/hotel entities increased substantially relative to the hotel/motel entities owned and operated by white persons.” Attorney Shane Connor said the appraisals were income-based and the CAD “overestimated what the income for a property run by Indians would be. If they happened to be white, their expectations of income would not be as high. I guess they think Indians are better businessmen than whites.” She said the plaintiff has brought in Dallas attorney Natasha Gandhi as a real estate specialist to help handle the case. There were reports the suit might include the Holiday Inn Express and the Hampton Inn, also owned by Indian natives, but they were not listed as plaintiffs. Connor said they were not related to the Bhaktas but likely had the same issues. The suit alleges that “there has been a systematic discriminatory practice engaged in connection with appraising real property, specifi cally hotel/motel real property taxation. Such discrimination has been based upon race and/or color and is in violation of Civil Rights statutes and laws of the United States and the State of Texas.” The petition notes the appraisal resulted in an increase in the property’s tax rate of 30 percent to 36 percent. It said the owners protested the valuation but the protest was unsuccessful. The suit does not seek a dollar value but does seek repayment of any overpayments plus court costs and attorney fees. Connor said she believes “we are on solid grounds. All we have to do is look at the appraisal. It’s as clear as day. There are no variations in the pattern.”