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Dekalb County Assessor v. Chavez

Tax Court of Indiana

January 29, 2016

DEKALB COUNTY ASSESSOR, Petitioner,
v.
PAUL L. and JOAN E. CHAVEZ, Respondents

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

         ATTORNEYS FOR PETITIONER: BRIAN A. CUSIMANO, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Indianapolis, IN; MARILYN S. MEIGHEN, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Carmel, IN; JEFFREY D. COLLINS, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Indianapolis, IN.

         PAUL L. CHAVEZ, JOAN E. CHAVEZ, RESPONDENTS APPEARING, Pro Se, Auburn, IN.

          OPINION

Page 929

          WENTWORTH, J.

         The DeKalb County Assessor challenges the Indiana Board of Tax Review's final determination reclassifying 2.72 acres of Paul and Joan Chavezes' land from excess residential to agricultural for the 2013 tax year. The Court affirms the Indiana Board's decision.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In the 1980's, Paul and Joan Chavez purchased 5.18 acres of property in Auburn, Indiana, for $2,500. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 4, 73-74, 118.) On the March 1, 2013 assessment date, the property was partially wooded and included a mobile home, a detached garage, and three pole barns. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 73-74, 92-96.) For property tax purposes, the Assessor classified one acre proximate to the mobile home as a residential homesite, 2.72 wooded acres as excess residential, .68 acres as a legal ditch, and .78 acres as a public road for a total land assessed value of $44,200. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 3, 71, 164.)

         Believing the total assessment to be too high, the Chavezes filed an appeal with the DeKalb County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA). The PTABOA, based upon a recommendation from the Assessor's office, reduced the land assessment to $32,800. (Cert. Admin. R. at 13-14.)

         Still believing the land assessment was excessive, the Chavezes appealed to the Indiana Board, which held a hearing on August 14, 2014. During the hearing, Mr. Chavez claimed that the 2.72 acres of excess residential land should be classified as agricultural because he purchased the property " as a woods" and intended to grow and harvest the trees as the previous owner had. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 175-85.) Although the property had been " logged out" at the time of purchase, some of the trees were mature in 2013, while others were still maturing. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 175-77.) None of the trees, however, had been harvested in 2013. (Cert. Admin. R. at 184-85.)

         On January 6, 2015, the Indiana Board issued its final determination that found the Assessor erred in classifying the 2.72 acres as excess residential and reclassified them as agricultural. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 34 ¶ 38.) On February 19, 2015, the Assessor initiated this original tax appeal. The Court heard oral argument on September 25, 2015.[1] Additional facts will be supplied as necessary.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

          The party seeking to overturn an Indiana Board final determination bears the burden of demonstrating its invalidity. Kildsig v. Warrick Cnty. Assessor, 998 N.E.2d 764, 765 (Ind.Tax Ct. 2013). Accordingly, the Assessor must demonstrate to the Court that the Indiana Board's final determination is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law; contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity; in ...


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