May 18, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Board Correctly Ruled that Contiguous Vacant Parcel Not “Used As a Unit” Within Residential Parcel

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Twilight Ridge, LLC v. Board of County Commissioners on Thursday, July 27, 2018.

Property Tax—C.R.S. § 39-1-102(14.4)(a)Used as a UnitVacant Land.

The Robinsons are the sole members of Twilight Ridge, LLC (Twilight), a Colorado limited liability company. In 2013 Twilight purchased two contiguous platted parcels of land in La Plata County. The first parcel has a home on it (the Residential Parcel). The second parcel is a 0.763 acre buildable but undeveloped lot (the Subject Parcel).

The La Plata County Assessor classified the Subject Parcel as vacant land. Twilight appealed the decision for the 2014 to 2015 tax years to the Board of County Commissioners of La Plata County and it appealed the decision for the 2016 tax year to the Board of Equalization for La Plata County, arguing to both bodies (collectively, the County) that the Subject Parcel should be reclassified as residential land. The County upheld the County Assessor’s classification.

Twilight appealed to the Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA). At a consolidated hearing, Mr. Robinson testified that he and his wife bought the two parcels together so that the Subject Parcel would give them privacy, serve as a buffer to prevent any potential house built on the subject property from impeding their views, and provide a place for their grandchildren to play when they visited. Further, although he was currently offering only the Residential Parcel for sale, Robinson intended to sell both parcels together.

Twilight also offered testimony by the Colorado Division of Property Taxation’s deputy director, who was designated by the Property Tax Administrator (PTA) to testify regarding the Division’s policies as embodied in the PTA’s Assessors’ Reference Library (ARL). The County provided the testimony of its appraisers, who had visited the parcels and seen no activity or evidence of use on the Subject Parcel when she visited. The La Plata County Assessor also testified that using the Subject Parcel as a place for children to play and protect a view were “incidental” uses and not the “integral” use of the Subject Parcel in conjunction with the residential improvements that would warrant classifying it as residential. The BAA upheld the County’s classification.

On appeal, Twilight argued that the BAA misconstrued the “used as a unit” element of C.R.S. § 39-1-102(14.4)(a) and made clearly erroneous findings of fact. The BAA’s conclusion that Twilight did not satisfy its burden of proving that the Subject Parcel was used as a unit with the residential parcel is consistent with the ARL and the testimony at the hearing that “used as a unit” contemplates integral, not merely incidental, use.

The orders were affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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