Amsdell v. Cuyahoga Cty. Bd. of Revision

Decision Date20 July 1994
Docket NumberNo. 93-163,93-163
Citation69 Ohio St.3d 572,635 N.E.2d 11
PartiesAMSDELL, Trustee, Appellant, v. CUYAHOGA COUNTY BOARD OF REVISION, et al., Appellees.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

For tax year 1989, the Cuyahoga County Auditor assessed the mini storage facility owned by appellant, Robert J. Amsdell, Trustee ("Amsdell"), in Lakewood, Ohio, at a true value of $1,518,080. The facility was developed by Amsdell on 1.32 acres of land purchased on August 19, 1987 at a cost of $400,000. During calendar year 1988, Amsdell spent $905,771.01 to renovate the subject property by razing some structures on the land, remodeling an existing building, and constructing several new buildings. When completed, the facility consisted of 503 storage units of various sizes with approximately 53,200 square feet of gross leasable space.

Amsdell thereafter filed a complaint with the Cuyahoga County Board of Revision. Following a hearing, the board of revision determined the true value of the subject property to be $1,341,990. From that determination, Amsdell appealed to the Board of Tax Appeals ("BTA"). At the BTA hearing, appellant presented evidence by Robert J. Amsdell and David Rogers, a vice president of Sovran Companies, a real estate investment company specializing in "self storage properties," investment and management. The appellees, Cuyahoga County Board of Revision and Cuyahoga County Auditor, offered no evidence at the BTA hearing.

The BTA found that appellant has not established "by competent and probative evidence that the value is other than that set by the Board of Revision"; and that "appellant has offered no evidence, independent of those [witnesses ] with an economic interest, that the value was other than that determined by the Board of Revision." Thus, the BTA affirmed the board of revision's true value determination of $1,341,990, finding it to be supported by the record.

The cause is now before this court upon an appeal as of right.

Fred Siegel Co., L.P.A., Fred Siegel, Todd W. Sleggs, Steven R. Gill, Cleveland, and Robert K. Danzinger, Pepper Pike, for appellant.

Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Cuyahoga County Pros. Atty., and William J. Day, Asst. Pros. Atty., for appellees.

PER CURIAM.

The decision of the BTA is unreasonable and unlawful, and it is reversed.

The BTA, citing Alcan Aluminum Corp. v. Limbach (1989), 42 Ohio St.3d 121, 537 N.E.2d 1302, and Alliance Towers, Ltd. v. Stark Cty. Bd. of Revision (1988), 37 Ohio St.3d 16, 523 N.E.2d 826, stated:

"The Board of Revision's determination of value of real property is presumptively correct."

The BTA has misinterpreted those cases. We have previously disabused the BTA regarding its conclusion that " * * * 'the board [of revision]'s finding of value is entitled to a presumption of validity.' " Springfield Local Bd. of Edn. v. Summit Cty. Bd. of Revision (1994), 68 Ohio St.3d 493, 494, 628 N.E.2d 1365, 1366. In Springfield Local, we rejected the BTA's insistence that R.R.Z. Assoc. v. Cuyahoga Cty. Bd. of Revision (1988), 38 Ohio St.3d 198, 202, 527 N.E.2d 874, 878, and Mentor Exempted Village Bd. of Edn. v. Lake Cty. Bd. of Revision (1988), 37 Ohio St.3d 318, 319, 526 N.E.2d 64, 65, support this conclusion. Also, in Springfield Local, we deflected support for this conclusion from Alliance Towers, Ltd., supra, stating that that case "dealt with the requirement that a board of revision 'perform its duty in good faith and in the exercise of sound judgment' [and that] * * * [t]he good faith and sound judgment questions in that case involved an administrative action, not a quasi-judicial valuation of the board of revision." Springfield Local, 68 Ohio St.3d at 495, 628 N.E.2d at 1366-1367.

Moreover, Alcan Aluminum, supra, does not establish the proposition attributed to it by the BTA. Rather, Alcan Aluminum, a franchise tax case, was concerned with the Tax Commissioner's finding that the involved property was physically located in Ohio. In Alcan Aluminum, supra, 42 Ohio St.3d at 123, 537 N.E.2d at 1304, we said:

"Absent a demonstration that the commissioner's findings are clearly unreasonable and unlawful, they are presumptively valid. Furthermore, it is error for the BTA to reverse the commissioner's determination when no competent and probative evidence is presented to show that the commissioner's determination is factually incorrect."

While a determination of the true value of real property by a board of revision is entitled to consideration by the BTA, such determination is not presumptively valid.

As we have stated: "The Board of Tax Appeals is vested with wide discretion in determining the weight to be given to evidence and the credibility of witnesses * * *.

"The fair market value of property for tax purposes is a question of fact, the determination of which is primarily within the province of the taxing authorities, and this court will not disturb a decision of the Board of Tax Appeals with respect to such valuation unless it affirmatively appears from the record that such decision is unreasonable or unlawful." Cardinal Fed. S. & L. Assn. v. Cuyahoga Cty. Bd. of Revision (1975), 44 Ohio St.2d 13, 73 O.O.2d 83, 336 N.E.2d 433, paragraphs three and four of the syllabus.

The BTA was correct in observing, as it did, that a taxpayer on appeal "may successfully challenge a determination of a Board of Revision only where the taxpayer produces competent and probative evidence to establish the correct value of the subject property." Here, the taxpayer did that. Amsdell presented evidence of an arm's-length transaction involving the purchase of the real property on which the facility was constructed, and evidence of the costs of renovation and construction of the improvements.

The BTA found that Amsdell did not sustain his burden of proving that the decision of the board of revision was invalid. The BTA also found no appropriate support for Amsdell's evidence. Those findings are unreasonable and unlawful.

Our holding in Mentor Exempted Village Bd. of Edn. v. Lake Cty. Bd. of Revision (1988), 37 Ohio St.3d 318, 319, 526 N.E.2d 64, 65, is pertinent:

" * * * [The taxpayers] did not...

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    ...has likewise recognized this rule in the context of valuing real property for tax purposes. Amsdell v. Cuyahoga Cty. Bd. of Revision, 69 Ohio St.3d 572, 574, 635 N.E.2d 11 (1994). {¶75} "Important in the owner-opinion rule * * * is that the owner qualifies primarily as a fact witness giving......
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