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Cooper v. Allen County Assessor

Tax Court of Indiana

September 9, 2015

GREGORY and CARMEN COOPER, Petitioners,
v.
ALLEN COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent

ON APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION OF THE INDIANA BOARD OF TAX REVIEW.

GREGORY and CARMEN COOPER, PETITIONERS, Pro se, Huntertown, IN.

ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA; JESSICA E. REAGAN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, Indianapolis, IN.

OPINION

Page 597

WENTWORTH, J.

This case examines whether the Indiana Board of Tax Review erred in upholding Gregory and Carmen Cooper's 2012 land assessment. Upon review, the Court finds that the Indiana Board did not err.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Gregory and Carmen Cooper own a single-family dwelling situated on 7.78 acres of land in the Shadow Creek subdivision in Huntertown, Indiana. Shadow Creek, with only twelve homesites ranging from four to eight acres each, " represents one of the most exclusive private residential developments [] in Allen County[.]" (Cert. Admin. R. at 123.) The neighborhood provides " [l]andscaped entries, paved private streets, illuminated walking paths, woods and rolling terrain[,]" creating " a sense of tranquility unparalleled in the marketplace." (Cert. Admin. R. at 123.)

For the March 1, 2012 assessment, the Assessor assigned the Coopers' property an assessed value of $671,400 ($172,500 for land and $498,900 for improvements). Believing their land assessment to be too high, the Coopers filed an appeal with the Allen County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA) on August 13, 2012. On December 31, 2012, the PTABOA denied their appeal. On February 14, 2013, the Coopers filed an appeal with the Indiana Board of Tax Review. The Indiana Board conducted a hearing on the appeal on October 10, 2013.

During that hearing, the Coopers and the Assessor each made evidentiary presentations to the Indiana Board to support their respective positions. For instance, the Coopers submitted a 2011 residential appraisal report for their property valuing the land at $62,240. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 62, 64.) The Assessor, on the other hand, submitted documentation indicating that between 2005 and 2011, five vacant lots in Shadow Creek were sold at prices between $20,000 to $23,000 per acre.[1] (See Cert. Admin. R. at 105-121, 129.) The Assessor also presented evidence indicating that two of those lots were relisted for sale in 2012 for $22,000 and $24,500 per acre. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 124-25, 129.) Finally, the Assessor presented evidence demonstrating that the last three remaining lots in Shadow Creek were being marketed at prices of approximately $25,000 per acre. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 123, 126-27, 129.) Consequently, the Assessor argued that the Coopers' land of assessment of $22,172 an acre was correct.

On April 8, 2014, the Indiana Board issued a final determination in which it found that the Assessor's evidence established a prima facie case that the Coopers' land assessment was proper.[2] The Indiana Board also determined that the Coopers failed to rebut that prima facie case because their appraisal was not credible and therefore carried no weight. More specifically, the Indiana Board explained that while the Coopers' appraisal indicated that its $62,240 land value reflected its 2007 purchase price, other evidence submitted

Page 598

during the hearing indicated that that purchase was not accomplished in an arms-length transaction. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 25 ¶ ¶ j-k (explaining that the evidence showed the Coopers " purchased" the land in 2007 from Gregory's mother, Carol, and that no money changed hands).) Accordingly, the Indiana Board affirmed the Coopers' 2012 land assessment of $172,500.

The Coopers initiated an original tax appeal on May 22, 2014. The Court heard oral argument on January 16, 2015 at Indiana Tech Law School in Fort Wayne, Indiana.[3] ...


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