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Hamilton Square Investment, LLC v. Hamilton County Assessor

Tax Court of Indiana

October 5, 2016

HAMILTON SQUARE INVESTMENT, LLC, Petitioner,
v.
HAMILTON COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent.

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

          ATTORNEYS FOR PETITIONER: JAMES F. BEATTY, JESSICA L. FINDLEY, DONALD D. LEVENHAGEN, MEGAN M. PIAZZA, KATHRYN M. MERRITT-THRASHER

          ATTORNEY FOR AMICI CURIAE: PAUL M. JONES, JR.

          ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, JESSICA R. GASTINEAU WINSTON LIN

          FISHER, Senior Judge

         Indiana's property tax caps provide taxpayers with credits against their Indiana property tax liabilities. See, e.g., Ind. Code § 6-1.1-20.6-7.5 (2016). The amount of a credit depends on, among other things, a property's classification (e.g., homestead, residential, agricultural, or nonresidential) and its overall gross assessed value. See I.C. § 6-1.1-20.6-7.5. This case concerns Hamilton Square Investment, LLC's claim that the Indiana Board of Tax Review erred in upholding the classification of its real property and, thus, the allocation of its tax cap credits for the 2012 tax year. Hamilton Square is correct.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Hamilton Square owns a 200-unit apartment complex situated on approximately 20 acres of land in Westfield, Indiana. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 87, 102-45, 152.) For the 2012 tax year, the Hamilton County Assessor assigned the property an overall gross assessed value of $5, 030, 900 ($1, 411, 000 for land and $3, 619, 900 for improvements). (See Cert. Admin. R. at 102.) In arriving at this valuation, the Assessor classified about 70% of the property as residential (i.e., the apartment buildings, attached balconies, and land thereunder) and 30% as nonresidential (i.e., the paving, storage/utility sheds, pool, clubhouse, and all remaining land). (See Cert. Admin. R. at 149, 199-242.) Pursuant to Indiana Code § 6-1.1-20.6-7.5, a 2% tax cap credit was then applied to the overall gross assessed value of Hamilton Square's residential property and a 3% tax cap credit was applied to the gross assessed value of its nonresidential property.[1] (See Cert. Admin. R. at 149-51.)

         Believing the Assessor had erred in classifying its property, Hamilton Square filed a Notice of Review with the Hamilton County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA) in May of 2013. The PTABOA, however, took no action on Hamilton Square's appeal. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 28.) As a result, on April 7, 2014, Hamilton Square filed a Petition for Review with the Indiana Board. The parties subsequently determined that the Indiana Board could resolve the matter by means of summary judgment without an administrative hearing. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 28.)

         On August 1, 2014, the parties filed their briefs and designated evidence[2] with the Indiana Board to support their motions for summary judgment. In its brief, Hamilton Square claimed that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the Assessor's classification of its property and the allocation of its 2012 tax cap credits contravened Indiana Code §§ 6-1.1-20.6-4 and 6-1.1-20.6-7.5. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 90-97, 277-79.) More specifically, Hamilton Square asserted that the Assessor misclassified some of its residential property by "limit[ing] the term 'common areas' to those areas shared only by the actual dwelling units, such as common hallways, and not those areas shared by the residents." (See Cert. Admin. R. at 90-91.) The Assessor, on the other hand, asserted that she was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because her classification of Hamilton Square's property and the allocation of its tax cap credits comported with both statutes. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 185-90, 267-68.)

         On April 1, 2015, the Indiana Board issued its final determination upholding the Assessor's classification of Hamilton Square's property and the allocation of its tax cap credits for the 2012 tax year. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 35.) In so doing, the Indiana Board explained that the Assessor's classification of Hamilton Square's property comported with both statutes because under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-20.6-4, "common areas shared by the dwelling units" were limited to the land and improvements within the footprint of a multi-unit apartment building. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 34-35.) Hamilton Square subsequently filed a petition for rehearing, but the Indiana Board declined to rehear the matter. (Cert. Admin. R. at 36-46.)

         On May 15, 2015, Hamilton Square initiated this original tax appeal. The Court heard oral argument on January 22, 2016. Additional facts will be supplied if necessary.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The party seeking to overturn a final determination of the Indiana Board bears the burden of demonstrating its invalidity. Hubler Realty Co. v. Hendricks Cnty. Assessor, 938 N.E.2d 311, 313 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2010). The Court will reverse a final determination if it is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law; contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity; in excess of or short of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; without ...


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