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Nova Tube Indiana II LLC v. Clark County Assessor

Tax Court of Indiana

May 18, 2018

NOVA TUBE INDIANA II LLC, Petitioner,
v.
CLARK COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent.

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

          ATTORNEYS FOR PETITIONER: BRENT A. AUBERRY BENJAMIN A. BLAIR FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS LLP Indianapolis, IN

          ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT: CURTIS T. HILL, JR. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA BENJAMIN J. LEGGE WINSTON LIN ALEKSANDRINA P. PRATT DEPUTY ATTORNEYS GENERAL Indianapolis, IN

          WENTWORTH, J.

         Nova Tube Indiana II, LLC appeals the Indiana Board of Tax Review's final determination, which upheld the assessments of its real property for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 tax years. Upon review, the Court reverses the Indiana Board's final determination.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         During the years at issue, Nova Tube owned two parcels of land in Clark County, Jeffersonville, Indiana. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 451-59.) Together, the parcels were comprised of 29.1 acres of land with rail spurs that provided access to the nearby railroad and a 109, 443 square foot industrial warehouse. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 195, 215, 616-17, 622-624.)

         In 2010, the property was assessed at $2, 245, 900. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 452, 459.) In 2011, however, the Clark County Assessor increased the property's assessment by over 50%, assigning it a total assessed value of $4, 653, 100. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 452, 459, 522.) Over the next two years, the property's assessments increased incrementally, with it being assessed at $4, 767, 200 in 2012 and $4, 767, 300 in 2013. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 522-23.)

         On October 3, 2013, Nova Tube appealed its assessments for the years at issue to the Clark County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (the PTABOA). In May of 2014, while the appeals were still pending with the PTABOA, Nova Tube sold the property to the Port of Indiana for $6, 125, 000. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 650-54.) The PTABOA subsequently affirmed all three of Nova Tube's assessments.

         Nova Tube appealed the PTABOA's determinations to the Indiana Board on July 18, 2014. After conducting a hearing on the appeals, the Indiana Board issued a final determination in the matter on June 30, 2017. In that final determination, the Indiana Board explained that with respect to the 2011 appeal, the Assessor bore the burden of proving that the assessment increase was correct under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2.[1](See Cert. Admin. R. at 97-98 ¶ 36.) The Indiana Board then determined that the Assessor met her burden because the evidence that the property was sold in a "market value" transaction in May 2014 and that the market was relatively stable during the years at issue supported her assessment values. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 97 ¶¶ 34-35, 99-102 ¶¶ 41-46.) Consequently, the burden shifted to Nova Tube to rebut the Assessor's prima facie case. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 101-02 ¶ 46.)

         In its rebuttal presentation, Nova Tube asserted that the May 2014 sale was not a market value transaction because the buyer, the Port of Indiana, was atypically motivated given that it was a government entity that already owned "the vast majority of the land in that area[, ]" including land adjacent to Nova Tube's property. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 100-01 ¶ 43, 651-57.) Nova Tube also asserted that the Assessor had admitted that the May 2014 sales price did not actually reflect the property's market value-in-use because the property record cards stated that the sale was "invalid." (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 596-601, 656-57.) Finally, Nova Tube presented an appraisal, completed in conformance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), that valued the property at $2, 900, 000 for 2011. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 194-280, 561-62, 644-806.)

         The Indiana Board weighed the competing evidence and determined that Nova Tube did not persuasively rebut the Assessor's prima facie case, explaining that the lack of support for certain adjustments and valuations in Nova Tube's 2011 appraisal, particularly the land valuations, had diminished its probative value. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 102-03 ¶¶ 47-53.) Consequently, the Indiana Board upheld the property's 2011 assessment of $4, 653, 100. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 100-05 ¶¶ 43-46, 54-57.)

         With respect to Nova Tube's 2012 and 2013 appeals, the Indiana Board did not state which party bore the burden of proof; rather, it stated that the Assessor had made a prima facie case for 2012 and 2013 by using the same evidence offered to support her 2011assessment. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 101-02 ¶ 46.) The Indiana Board determined that Nova Tube's 2012 and 2013 appraisals, which valued the property at $3, 000, 000 for 2012and $3, 100, 000 for 2013, did not persuasively rebut the Assessor's prima facie case because they suffered from the same infirmities as its 2011 appraisal. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 101-04 ¶¶ 46-53, 55.) (See also Cert. Admin. R. at 836-37, 859-60.) Accordingly, the Indiana Board also upheld the property's 2012 assessment of $4, 767, 200 as well as its 2013 assessment of $4, 767, 300. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 104-05 ¶ 57.)

         On July 17, 2017, Nova Tube filed a Request for Rehearing. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 106-17.) On July 31, 2017, the Indiana Board denied Nova Tube's Request ...


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