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CVS Corporation v. Monroe County Assessor

Tax Court of Indiana

September 29, 2017

CVS CORPORATION, Petitioner,
v.
MONROE COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent.

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

          ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER: PAUL M. JONES, JR. PAUL JONES LAW, LLC Indianapolis, IN

          ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT: CURTIS T. HILL, JR. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA WINSTON LIN GREGORY P. GADSON DEPUTY ATTORNEYS GENERAL Indianapolis, IN

          ATTORNEYS FOR AMICUS CURIAE: MARILYN S. MEIGHEN MARJORIE K. RICE BRIAN A. CUSIMANO MONROE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS Bloomington, IN

          WENTWORTH, J.

         The CVS Corporation ("CVS") challenges the Indiana Board of Tax Review's final determination upholding the Monroe County Assessor's assessments of its real property for the 2011 through 2013 tax years. Upon review, the Court affirms the Indiana Board's final determination.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The property at issue is a CVS store near Ellettsville, Indiana. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 693-97.) The Assessor originally determined the assessed value of the property as $1, 401, 700 for 2011; $1, 391, 600 for 2012; and $1, 401, 300 for 2013. (Cert. Admin. R. at 693-94.) Believing those values to be too high, CVS appealed them to the Monroe County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals ("PTABOA"). The PTABOA affirmed all of the assessments, and CVS appealed to the Indiana Board.

         The parties agreed to an expedited review procedure before the Indiana Board based on stipulated evidence. (Cert. Admin. R. at 53-54, 71-72.) See also 52 Ind. Admin. Code 2-6-3(b) (2014) (listing expedited review procedures). The stipulated evidence consisted of the property record card, the 14th edition of The Appraisal of Real Estate, the 2014-2015 Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice ("USPAP"), the parties' USPAP-compliant appraisal reports from certified appraisers, a report from the Assessor reviewing CVS's appraisal report, and the Indiana Board's records of two previous cases involving Monroe County CVS stores. (Cert. Admin. R. at 78-79, 157-58, 706-07.)

         CVS's appraisal report, prepared by Sara Coers (the "Coers Report"), calculated the property's value using the sales-comparison and income approaches that incorporated a combination of national and regional data. (Cert. Admin. R. at 157-58, 222-75.) The Coers Report did not value the property using the cost approach, but rather used that approach only to calculate market rents under the income approach. (Cert. Admin. R. at 211-21, 224-26.) Ultimately, the Coers Report valued the property at $1, 060, 000 for 2011; $1, 070, 000 for 2012; and $1, 130, 000 for 2013. (Cert. Admin. R. at 275.)

         The Assessor's appraisal report, prepared by Wayne Johnson (the "Johnson Report"), used all three approaches to value the property based exclusively on local data. (Cert. Admin. R. at 706-07, 845-46.) The Johnson Report reconciled the results of each approach, valuing the property at $1, 475, 000 for 2011; $1, 500, 000 for 2012; and $1, 550, 000 for 2013. (Cert. Admin. R. at 793, 819, 844-46.) The Assessor asked the Indiana Board to increase each years' assessed values to match the values contained in the Johnson Report. (Cert. Admin. R. at 1855.)

         The Assessor also submitted a review of the Coers Report that criticized its choice of comparable properties and the methodology it employed. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 928-29.) It also criticized the Coers Report's underlying interpretations of Indiana's market value-in-use standard for valuing the property and asserted that the scope of comparable data should be limited to "national pharmacies."[1] (See Cert. Admin. R. at 928-29, 931, 933-34, 951-54.)

         On March 28, 2016, the Indiana Board issued its final determination. As a threshold issue, it determined under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2 that the Assessor bore the burden of proving the assessments were correct because the property's 2011 assessment increased more than 5% over the 2010 assessment. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 101 ¶ 58.) Furthermore, upon reviewing the stipulated evidence, the Indiana Board concluded that while each of the competing appraisals had shortcomings that detracted from their reliability, neither appraisal's flaws obliterated its probative weight completely. (See generally Cert. Admin. R. at 103-10 ¶¶ 64-89.)

         The Indiana Board identified the central flaw in the Johnson Report as the relative lack of physical similarity between the properties it used as comparables and the CVS property. (Cert. Admin. R. at 103-04 ¶¶ 65-66, 69, 106 ¶ 73, 106-07 ¶ 77.) Regarding the Coers Report, the Indiana Board questioned its adjustments to comparable properties, its failure to relate those adjustments to the Ellettsville market or the CVS property, and its omission of the cost approach to value the property in contradiction to its own data. (Cert. Admin. R. at 108-10 ¶¶ 80, 85-88.) In the end, the Indiana Board found the Johnson Report more persuasive than the Coers Report, explaining "that Coers' lack of accounting for the local market detracts more from the reliability of [Coers'] opinions than Johnson's problems with physical comparability do from his." (Cert. Admin. R. at 111 ¶ 91.) Nonetheless, the Indiana ...


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