The plaintiff trustee, Edmund W. O'Brien, appealed from the refusal of the board of tax review of the town of Groton to reduce the valuation on buildings located on the trust's real estate in Groton. By way of a special defense to the appeal the defendant admitted that the building assessment was high but that "the land assessment was proportionately low," and requested that the court consider the overall assessment and deny relief to the plaintiff. The matter was referred to a referee who, acting as the court pursuant to its powers under General Statutes § 12-118, reduced the valuation of the buildings but increased the valuation of the land so that the overall assessment of the plaintiff's property was reduced. The defendant has appealed.
General Statutes § 12-118, under which this appeal is taken from the decision of a board of tax review, states that "[t]he court shall have power to grant such relief as to justice and equity appertains." Mere overvaluation is sufficient to justify redress under § 12-118, and the court is not limited to a review of whether an assessment has been unreasonable or discriminatory or has resulted in substantial
This appeal relates to the assessment of taxes based on valuation on the first day of September for the years 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970 on the plaintiff's tract of land containing about 43.52 acres in the town of Groton. The court's finding is as follows: The rear half section of the property is undeveloped rough land, and on the front half were remnants of temporary housing units built in 1941. By 1967, the structures were physically and functionally depreciated to a very great extent; 146 units of housing were vacant and only 54 occupied, and in 1968, 153 units were vacant. Parts of the structures were damaged by fire and many windows were broken. The housing units were ramshackle and dilapidated, and the majority were uninhabitable. The gross rentals for 1967 were $46,255.57, and the net income was $26,480.57. For each year in question, the plaintiff's assessment upon which taxes were laid was based upon a valuation as
The court considered that the land value as fixed by the assessor was too low and the building value for the years in question was much too high. None of these findings has been attacked by the defendant. The court concluded
The defendant has attacked the court's conclusions as to the assessment value of the land on grounds that those conclusions are unsupported by the evidence and that they are inconsistent with the principles of equity and justice under General Statutes
The plaintiff's appraiser used the income approach in determining his valuation for the land and buildings of $178,000 and, at a later appearance, arrived at the same valuation for the land alone based on his estimate of the number of units which could be built on the land. The assessor, the first time he appeared, relied solely on the October, 1970 sale of the premises for a price reported to be about $600,000, as established by the documentary stamps on the deed, although he admitted that after he heard of the sale he did not increase the land valuation which had been on the premises for the years in question. He also stated that he should have assessed the land on his opinion of the number of apartments which could have been placed on the land at the rate of $1000 a unit. His opinion as to the number of units is unknown. On a subsequent trial day the plaintiff requested the assessor to bring in assessment cards relating to land in the area of the property in question. This was not done. From memory the assessor testified that in 1967 a golf course containing 124.8 acres located across the street from the property was sold to the town for $960,000 when its assessment was $300,000. He further testified that when land is sold, the assessment on the land is not changed, no matter what the price paid, unless and until there is a change of use or a change of zone. He then gave illustrations of the change of assessment in apartment complexes after they were built: A parcel of land was assessed at $24,000. At some time after its sale but only after eighty-seven buildings were constructed was the land assessed at $243,600. In
After an examination of the evidence presented by the plaintiff's appraiser and of the assessor's opinion in the appendices as clarified and more fully explained in the transcript, it is clear that the referee, who had particular personal knowledge of the whole area and of the land transactions in that area covering a considerable period of time, took into consideration the disproportionate assessment of other properties and in fact found that "assessments of property in the town of Groton are determined by the board first establishing the present true and actual value of the property." It is true that a plaintiff may not have relief in a proceeding such as this on the ground that the property of other taxpayers is assessed at too low a rate. White v. Portland, 63 Conn. 18, 22, 26 A. 342. Evidence of disproportionate assessments of other properties, however, may be considered in an action such as this in relation to the true and actual value of the plaintiff's property. Thaw v. Fairfield, 132 Conn. 173, 180, 43 A.2d 65.
At first blush, it might be argued that the great disparity between the sale price so recent to the assessment date and the assessment found by the
It is evident from the finding that the referee viewed the premises prior to trial, that he found that the assessments of property in the town were established at their present true and actual value, that he did not exclude evidence of the sale of the land fifty-nine days after the assessment date, and that he took these factors into consideration as elements of his judgment of what the assessment, in fact, should be. The trier arrives at his own conclusions as to the value of land by weighing the opinion of the appraisers, the claims of the parties in light of all the circumstances in evidence bearing on value, and his own general knowledge of the elements going to establish value including his own view of the property. Esposito v. Commissioner of Transportation, 167 Conn. 439, 441, 356 A.2d 175; Schnier v. Ives, supra, 177-78. The court's conclusions
There is no error.
In this opinion HOUSE, C. J., MACDONALD and LONGO, Js., concurred.
BOGDANSKI, J. (dissenting). On this appeal from the board of tax review, the trial referee had "power to grant such relief as to justice and equity appertains, upon such terms and in such manner and form as appear equitable." General Statutes § 12-118. In my view, "justice and equity" have not been done in this case where the trial referee's valuation of the plaintiff's land and buildings on September 1, 1970, was only 36 percent of the sale price received by the plaintiff for that same realty on October 29, 1970.
The posture of the pleadings is important. The plaintiff's appeal asserted that the town's valuation of the subject buildings was too high, but it did not attack the validity of the valuation placed on the land. The town agreed in its answer that the valuation of the buildings was too high but asked the trial referee to do "justice and equity" under § 12-118 by increasing the valuation of the land so that the total valuation of the real estate remained the same. Thus, the ultimate issue before the trial referee was whether the defendant's overall valuation of the plaintiff's land and buildings at $300,610 was greater than their "present true and actual valuation" for the years 1967 through 1970. See General Statutes § 12-64.
"The expressions `actual valuation,' `actual value,' `market value,' `market price' and ... `fair value'
The evidence presented by the town's assessor was that the plaintiff's land and buildings were sold on October 29, 1970, for $630,000. That sale price was calculated from the real estate conveyance tax which was paid upon recordation of the deed. See General Statutes § 12-494. The majority opinion states that the "circumstances" relating to that sale were not received into evidence, implying that the sale price was not necessarily a valid measure of
It is true that the isolated sale price of property, indeed a sale of the same property, may not be a valid measure of its fair value. And, it has been held that the actual or fair value of property may be far greater than a recent sale price of that property. See Thaw v. Fairfield, 132 Conn. 173, 180, 43 A.2d 65. That is not inconsistent, however, with the mandate of § 12-501 of the General Statutes that the sale price reflected by the conveyance tax must not be greater than the actual value of the property or interest conveyed.
In any event, the defendant was not claiming that the valuation of the plaintiff's land and buildings should be increased to reflect the $630,000 sale price. Rather, the pleadings requested only that the trial
I would find error, set aside the judgment and remand the case with direction to increase the valuation of the land for the years 1967 through 1970 so that the total valuation of the plaintiff's land and buildings for each of those years is equal to the defendant's overall valuation of $300,610.