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Groton Long Point v. Town of Groton. CV 12-6050023S, July 5, 2017

This case is a class action residential real property tax application for relief pursuant to General Statutes § 12-119.1  The plaintiff class comprises: all owners of taxable residential real property with buildings thereon in the Groton Long Point assessment area of the Town of Groton (“town” or “Groton”) between October 1, 2011 and July 1, 2013, excluding those owners who individually appealed their real property tax assessments to the Superior Court and whose appeals have reached a final judgment.  (#201.00.)  A trial to the court took place on October 21, 28, and 30, 2016. For the reasons stated in the memorandum, the court finds for the defendant.

Kobyluck Sand & Gravel, Inc. v. Town of Montville.  CV 15-6024120S, November 15, 2016.

Part 1 – Tax Assessor May Not Deny an Exemption Based Solely on a Taxpayer’s Failure to Provide All Information Requested on the Assessor’s Standard Exemption Claim Form. Rather, the assessor must make a decision on an exemption claim based on “the best information available.” This opinion holds that an assessor and a Board of Assessment Appeals improperly denied an exemption claim under the “manufacturing machinery and equipment” exemption, CGS §12-12-81 (72), based solely on the taxpayer’s failure to provide all of the valuation information requested on the assessor’s standard manufacturing exemption form.

Part 2 – Manufacturing Equipment Stored in One Town and Temporarily Moved and Used at Job Sites in Other Towns Is Not Entitled in the Town of Storage to the “Manufacturing Machinery and Storage” Exemption from the Personal Property Tax.

Coventry Imperial Development v. Town of Coventry.  CV 16-6029662S, April 1, 2016.  Plaintiff Imperial Development, LLC appeals from the decision of the Board of Assessment Appeals of the defendant Town of Coventry (town) approving the removal of the plaintiff’s property from its classification as forest land.  The owner applied for sub-division, which was approved, the project was bonded, and roads were built.  The Town took the property out of PA 490 once the roads were built and the court ruled that the property should remain in PA 490. PA 490 as we know is to preserve farms, forest and open space (this property was a forest).  Once a developer posts a bond and builds roads, the development has started. The Assessor only took out the lots in the particular phase as it was built, he left the balance of the lot in PA 490. There were about 15 lots involved. The court decided that the property should remain classified as forest land. The judge relied heavily on the Griswold Airport v. Madison case
Walgreen Eastern Company, Inc v. Town of West Hartford.  CV 12-6015514S, December 29, 2015.  This case is a real estate tax appeal concerning commercial rental property leased by Walgreen Eastern Company, Inc.  The subject property is a 1.45 acre improved parcel with a Walgreen Pharmacy.  For purposes of the October 1, 2011 property revaluation, the town appraised the property at $5,020,000.  The plaintiff appealed to the board of assessment appeals, which declined to reduce the assessment.  The plaintiff’s appraisers valued the property at $3,000,000.  The town’s appraiser valued the property at $4,900,000.  The testimony and the final decision revolved around the concepts of fee simple, leased fee and market versus contract rent. It also found that “… a market for the sales of pharmacies does exist and that sales of property leased to Walgreens are the most comparable.”  The court finds that the plaintiff has proven aggrievement but accepts the town’s appraisal and finds the value of the property as of October 1, 2011 is $4,900,000.

Supreme Court of Connecticut – SC 19750 

On March 14, 2017, Murtha Cullina LLP filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) in an appeal pending before the Connecticut Supreme Court, Walgreen Eastern Company, Inc. v. Town of West Hartford.  Click here to read the entire amicus brief.

The case involves a commercial property located in West Hartford that is leased to a Walgreens drug store. The Town and Walgreens disagreed about the property’s actual fair market value by almost two million dollars. The trial court accepted the Town’s valuation which was premised upon a conclusion that the property’s highest and best use was as a retail drug store based in part on the existing contract rent under the Walgreens lease. The appeal raises challenges to the statutory requirement that municipal assessor’s consider contract rent in valuing rental properties and the specificity of highest and best use that may properly be applied in determining actual fair market value. The Supreme Court’s decision in this appeal could have broad implications for municipal tax assessments throughout the state.

According to the amicus brief filed by Murtha Cullina Attorneys Kari L. Olson and Proloy K. Das, “CCM advocates for approval of the use by municipal assessors of contract rents as a tool in arriving at the fair market value of income-producing properties, especially where, as here, the contract rents fairly reflect the highest and best use and intrinsic market value of the property.”

Reznik v. City of Milford. CV 126028137, December 11, 2015. This is a real estate tax appeal in which the plaintiffs, Alan M. Reznik and Elizabeth Kaye Reznik (Rezniks) challenge the valuation of their properly at 19 Beach Avenue in the city of Milford as determined by the assessor for the city of Milford on the grand list of October 1, 2012 related back to the last revaluation year of October 1, 2011. On June 11, 2012, the Rezniks purchased 19 Beach Avenue for 1,825,000. On August 7, 2012, the Rezniks wrote a letter to the city of Milford notifying the city that the purchase price included $100,000 worth of furniture that was purchased from the sellers. (Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 5). The Rezniks informed the city in this letter that the purchase price for the furniture should not be included in the assessment of the house. The assessor denied their request. The Rezniks have not produced any documentation, other than their letter of August 7, 2012, to support their claim that the purchase price for the subject property included the sale of the furniture for $100,000. The assessor had previously determined that the fair market value of 19 Beach Avenue, as of October 1, 2011 was $1,362,900.  Subsequently, for the grand list of October 1, 2012, a non-revaluation year, the assessor increased the assessment of the subject property to reflect a fair market valuation of $1,654,140. The assessor’s change in valuation of the subject property for the list of October 1, 2012 came about because of the practice of the Milford assessor, in his “watch tower” role, to comply with the provisions of General Statutes §12-55, which requires an assessor, prior to subscribing to the yearly grand list, to “equalize the assessment of property in the town, if necessary . . . .”

As to the second count of the plaintiffs’ complaint, based on §12-119,judgment may enter in favor of the defendant.  As to the first count based on §12-117a, judgment may enter in favor of the plaintiffs finding the fair market value of the subject property as of October 1, 2011 to be 1,560,000 without costs to either party.

Sweet Potatoes, LLC dba v. The Town of Seymour et al. CV146016022S  March 27, 2015 The defendants, town of Seymour, its board of assessment appeals and tax assessor, move to dismiss the plaintiff’s action claiming that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the plaintiff failed to exhaust its administrative remedies.   More particularly, the defendants contend that the plaintiff failed to file “a written appeal in proper form” in accordance with General Statutes § 12–111(a). The facts necessary to the determination of the motion are undisputed.   The plaintiff operates a barbeque restaurant at 225 West Street in Seymour, Connecticut.   The plaintiff received a “Personal Property Assessment Notice” concerning the restaurant for the assessment year of 2012 by notice issued by the tax assessor’s office on February 7, 2013.   The notice set forth the then current assessed value of the plaintiff’s personal property as $1,050, and noted the prior assessed value as $1,170.   Pursuant to § 12–111(a), any appeal of the 2012 assessment to the board of assessment appeals required that the appeal be filed in writing and no later than February 20, 2013.   The plaintiff did not appeal the 2012 personal property assessment under that statutory section.

The defendants do not claim that the appeal was not timely filed.   Admittedly, it was filed within the statutory time frame.   Therefore, the court holds that the plaintiff’s appeal form substantially complied with the requirements of § 12–111(a) despite not including the plaintiff’s estimate of the property value or date of signature.

The defendants are not prejudiced by this finding because § 12–111(a) further provides for an appeal hearing before the board, held shortly after the filing of the appeal, in which involves the issue of the value of the assessed property.   Because the appeal was timely filed, the lack of a date of the plaintiff’s signature also does not result in any prejudice to the defendants.   Under the factual circumstances of this case, a hearing is warranted where the plaintiff’s personal property assessment in 2013 represented a substantial increase from its assessment in the 2012 tax year, and the plaintiff timely pursued its appeal remedy.   In view of the foregoing, the defendants’ motion to dismiss is denied.

Afscme, Council 4, Local 818-052 v Town of Marlborough (SC 18865) August 20, 2013. The primary issue in this certified appeal is whether an arbitration panel properly ordered the plaintiff, the town of Marlborough (town), to reinstate a former town assessor, Emily Chaponis, to her position because the termination of her employment, which had followed the expiration of her term of office, violated the applicable collective bargaining agreement (agreement). The town appeals, following our grant of certification,1 from the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court’s denial of the town’s application to vacate the arbitration award (award) in which the arbitrators found that the town had violated the agreement when it terminated the employment of the town assessor without just cause. Marlborough v.AFSCME, Council 4, Local 818-052, 130 Conn. App. 556, 557–58, 23 A.3d 798 (2011).

On appeal, the town argues that General Statutes § 9-187 (a)2 clearly applies to the position of town assessor and that the arbitrators’ decision to the contrary was in manifest disregard of the law and was unenforceable. We conclude that, the award ordering Chaponis’ reinstatement after the statutory expiration of her term of office contravened the plain and unambiguous mandates of the statutory scheme governing the term of office for municipal officers and that the award is, therefore, unenforceable. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court.

Afscme, Council 4, Local 1303-325 v Town of Westbrook (SC 18969) August 20, 2013. The determinative question in this appeal is whether the trial court properly limited the scope of its review when it denied an application, filed by the plaintiff, AFSCME, Council 4, Local 1303-325 (union), to vacate an arbitration award (award), which concluded that a grievance challenging the decision of the defendant, the town of Westbrook (town), not to reappoint its assessor, Ivan Kuvalanka, to a successive term of office was not arbitrable. Specifically, the union claims on appeal that the trial court improperly limited its scope of review and incorrectly concluded that the town’s decision to terminate Kuvalanka’s employment upon the expiration of his term of office was not governed by the terms of the applicable collective bargaining agreement (agreement). We disagree and conclude that the trial court properly limited the scope of its review when considering the union’s application to vacate the award and properly determined that the union did not establish grounds to vacate the award. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
Kasica vs Town of Columbia Supreme Court, (SC 18968) June 25, 2013.  The primary issue in this tax appeal is whether a municipal assessor has the authority, under General Statutes § 12-55 (b), to conduct an interim assessment of a property and increase its valuation based on partially completed construction. The defendant, the town of Columbia (town), appeals from the judgment of the trial court rendered in favor of the plaintiff, Gene Kasica, in his appeal from the decision of the town’s Board of Assessment Appeals (board) upholding the town assessor’s interim valuations of the plaintiff’s property under § 12-55. On appeal, the town claims that the trial court improperly applied General Statutes (Rev. to 2007) § 12-53a, to the facts of the present case and incorrectly concluded that, because § 12-53a only applies to ‘‘completed new construction,’’ the assessor did not have statutory authority to assign value to the partially completed construction on the grand lists for the years in question.   We agree with the town and, accordingly, reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Superior Court Decision, October 6, 2011

Commissioner of Public Safety v. Freedom of Information Commission; Town of North Stonington v. FOI Commision; Judicial Branch v. FOI Commission; AFSCME Council 4 v. FOI Commission. The sole issue in these appeals is whether General Statutes § 1-217,1 which prohibits public agencies from disclosing, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (act); General Statutes § 1-200 et seq.; the home addresses of various federal, state and local government officials and employees, is applicable to grand lists of motor vehicles and their component data provided to town assessors by the department of motor vehicles (department) pursuant to General Statutes (Rev. to 2009) § 14-163.3

Decision: We conclude that § 1-217 applies to motor vehicle grand lists and their component data provided to the town assessors pursuant to § 14-163. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court.

Redding Life Care, LLC v. Town of Redding  Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 084019333; (February 23, 2011. Aronson, J.T.R.) Valuation of a Continuing Care Retirement Facility (CCRC).  The key issue was the valuation approach used by the taxpayer’s appraiser.  Going concern valuation vs. the Income Approach.
Marketing Drive LLC v. Norwalk, CV 084014423S  The matter before the court is an application of Marketing Drive, LLC (the “Applicant”) brought pursuant to Conn. Gen.Stat. § 12-117a, constituted an appeal from the doings of the Board of Assessment Appeals of the City of Norwalk (“Board”). The Applicant claims that the Assessor of the City of Norwalk (“Assessor”), on the assessment dates for 2007 and 2008, overvalued the personal property of the Applicant located at 800 Connecticut Avenue in Norwalk by not assessing it at 70% of its true and actual value as of the two assessment dates for those years. After appealing the assessment for 2007 to the Board (Conn.Gen.Stat. § 12-111) with no relief, the Applicant appealed to this court (Conn.Gen.Stat. § 117a). Similarly, the Applicant appealed to the Board for the 2008 assessment and after similar results, amended this appeal to the court to include the 2008 assessment (Conn.Gen.Stat. § 117a). The Applicant prays that the personal property assessment for those years be reduced accordingly
Town of Windham v. St. Joseph’s Living Center Supreme Court, (SC 17916) March 24,2009.  The 3-2 decision affirmed the ability to tax the nursing home, but exempted the chapel portion. This appeal was on the 2003-2008 Grand Lists, if lost, would have required refunds totaling over $800,000, including 10% interest. It was a real “David v. Goliath” case.  This case may provide a “blueprint” of sorts for facilities such as these to be exempt in the future. The Supreme Court has almost redefined “charitable”.
Griswold Airport, Inc. v Madison, Supreme Court, (SC 17938) 12/23/2008. The primary issue before the court is whether a municipal tax assessor’s termination of an open space classification for property on the basis of its proposed use, as opposed to its current use, was proper. The outcome of this appeal turns on the proper interpretation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2003) § 12-504h, a provision that gives municipal tax assessors discretionary authority to remove open space classifications previously placed on real property within their municipalities when the use of that property has changed.
Snake Meadow Club, Inc. v. Killingly, Superior Court, judicial district of Windham at Putnam, Docket No. CV 07 4006068S (July 24, 2008, Aronson, J.T.R.) (assessor under no statutory authority to recognize agreement between plaintiff and AT&T to consider cell tower erected on plaintiff’s property as personalty rather than realty).
Hartford/Windsor Healthcare Properties, LLC v. Hartford, Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 074014469;Trinity Hill Realty, Inc. v. Hartford, Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 074014470 (April 2, 2008, Aronson, J.T.R.) (nursing home classified as commercial, not residential or apartment property).
Breezy Knoll Association, Inc. v. Town of Morris (SC 17815) – May 13, 2008
HealthSouth Corp. v. Waterbury, Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 054011048; HealthSouth Corp. v. Madison, Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 054010916; HealthSouth Corp. v. Fairfield, Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield at Bridgeport, Docket No. CV 054010807; HealthSouth Corp. v. Willimantic, Superior Court, judicial district of Windham at Putnam, Docket No. CV 054002794; HealthSouth Corp. v. Norwalk, Superior Court, judicial district of Stamford/Norwalk at Stamford, Docket No. CV 054006234 (March 13, 2008, Aronson, J.T.R.).
Aspetuck Land Trust, Inc. v. Bridgeport, Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield at Bridgeport, Docket No. CV 064016847 (March 3, 2008, Cohn, J.) (whether undeveloped island property held for charitable purpose was entitled to tax exemption).
Connecticut Post Limited Partnership v. MilfordSuperior Court, judicial district of Ansonia/Milford at Derby, Docket No. CV 074008134. The issue in this motion is whether an appeal to the Board of Assessment Appeals was timely received by the Board. The plaintiff claims that its putting in the mail by the date set for filing appeals complied with the requirement that the application be filed by a certain date.
Burlington Coat Realty v. East Windsor, Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 064011423S (January 3, 2008, Aronson, JTR) (valuation of owner/occupied big box retail property)
Goodspeed Airport, LLC v. East Haddam, Superior Court, judicial district of Middlesex at Middletown, Docket Nos. CV 040104527S; CV 064005318S; CV 064005319S (December 20, 2007, Aronson, JTR) (valuation of commercial utility airport partly classified as open space).
J.C. Penney v. Manchester, Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 064010562S (November 13, 2007, Aronson, JTR) (issue involved the timely filing of a personal property declaration for a large commercial distribution center).
Dominion Nuclear v. Waterford, Superior Court, judicial district of New London, Docket No. CV 03 0566126 (November 8, 2007, Aronson, JTR) (valuation of a nuclear power plant).
Sullivan v. Bridgeport, Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield at Bridgeport, Docket No. CV 04 4000507 (August 2, 2007, Aronson, JTR) (valuation of eighty-year-old single-family house converted into three apartments).
Sullivan v. Bridgeport, Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 07 4013444 (August 2, 2007, Aronson, JTR) (personal property consisting of stoves and refrigerators located in leased apartments are not exempt from taxation as household furniture pursuant to General Statutes § 12-81 (31)).
PJM & Associates, LC v. Bridgeport, Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield at Bridgeport, Docket No. CV 05 4009473; Bridgeport Towers, LLC v. Bridgeport, Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield at Bridgeport, Docket No. CV 05 4009474 (July 27, 2007, Aronson, JTR) (interpretation of the penalty provision in General Statutes § 12-63c dealing with taxpayers’ failure to provide the assessor with rental income and expense information).
Krevis v. Bridgeport, Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield at Bridgeport, Docket No. CV 06 4014350 (July 17, 2007, Aronson, JTR) (declaratory judgment denied and judgment entered in favor of the defendant; one-year statute of limitations in General Statutes § 12-119 applicable to the facts in this case; plaintiff failed to overcome the statutory presumption that his motor vehicles are sited for tax purposes at his residence in Bridgeport).
Sakon v. Glastonbury, Superior Court, Judicial District of New Britain, Docket Nos. CV 054003783 & 054006620 (April 27, 2007, Aronson, JTR) (highest and best use of three, contiguous parcels of undeveloped land, owned or controlled by the same taxpayer, located in a planned travel zone, were for commercial use, not for a park).
Moutinho v. Bridgeport, Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield at Bridgeport, Docket No. CV 04 0412557 (April 11, 2007, Aronson, JTR) (valuation of 1.86 acre parcel of land located in a light industrial zone improved with two buildings consisting of an office/warehouse and garage).
Griswold Airport v. Madison, Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 05 4011562 (March 30, 2007, Aronson, JTR) (assessor was without authority to terminate open space classification of airport and then revalue property for condominium use).
Rizzuto v. DRS, Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 06 4008351 (February 28, 2007, Aronson, JTR) (Burden of Proof involving change of domicile is by clear and convincing evidence).
St. Joseph Living Center v. Windham, Superior Court, judicial district of Windham at Putnam, Docket No. CV 04 0072963 (February 23, 2007, Aronson, JTR) (church-affiliated nursing home facility not exempt from property taxes because it was not used exclusively for charitable purpose).
Sheridan v. Killingly, Superior Court, judicial district of Windham at Putnam, Docket No. CV 03 007 0359 (January 12, 2007, Aronson, JTR) (on remand, valuation of 202-acre site with 31 acres divided into 274 lots; issue of the valuation of leasehold interests in the lots).
Middletown Oxford L.P. v. Middletown, Superior Court, judicial district of Middlesex at Middletown, Docket No. CV 04 0104632 (December 11, 2006, Aronson, JTR) (valuation of property containing thirteen, three-story walk-up, garden-style apartment buildings with 336 units).
Hotshoe Enterprises, LLC v. Hartford, Superior Court, Judicial District of New Britain, Docket No. CV 05 4007951 (November 30, 2006, Aronson, JTR) (condominium hangar units located on a state-owned airport and leased to private individuals exempt from municipal property taxes pursuant to § 12-64 (c)).
Dominion Nuclear v. Waterford, Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 03 0566126 (April 7, 2006, Aronson, JTR) (transferability of exemption).
Executive Square v. Wethersfield, Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 04 4000074 (January 4, 2006, Aronson, JTR) (valuation of 12-story housing complex for low and moderate income elderly residents where the issue was whether, under the income approach, contract rent or market rent should be used in determining net income).
Dominion Nuclear v. Waterford, Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 03 0566126 (May 27, 2005, Aronson, JTR) (Statutory exemption cannot be transferred unless specifically provided for in the statute; the role of the assessor in relationship to the grant of statutory exemption).