Anderson v. Cnty. of Wright, 86-CV-19-2167

CourtTax Court of Minnesota
Writing for the CourtJANE N. BOWMAN, JUDGE
PartiesHarlan R. Anderson, Mary J. Anderson, Richard A. Anderson, and Mark W. Anderson Petitioners, v. County of Wright, Respondent.
Decision Date29 October 2021
Docket Number86-CV-19-2167

Harlan R. Anderson, Mary J. Anderson, Richard A. Anderson, and Mark W. Anderson Petitioners,
v.

County of Wright, Respondent.

No. 86-CV-19-2167

Tax Court of Minnesota, Regular Division, Wright County

October 29, 2021


This matter came before the Honorable Jane N. Bowman, Judge of the Minnesota Tax Court for trial.

Bretta I. Hines and Larry J. Peterson, Peterson, Logren & Kilbury, P.A., represent petitioners Harlan R. Anderson, Mary J. Anderson, Richard A. Anderson, and Mark W. Anderson.

Brian J. Asleson, Chief Deputy Wright County Attorney, represents respondent Wright County.

FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, AND ORDER FOR JUDGMENT

Trial in this matter was held on July 13, 2021, at the Minnesota Judicial Center in St. Paul. The petitioners generally argued the court should adopt a $3, 500 per acre value, which was calculated-in part-by relying on Wisconsin law. At the close of petitioners' case-in-chief, Wright County moved to dismiss under Rule 41.02(b) of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to overcome the statutory presumption of validity. The County then put on its case-in-chief, and petitioners presented rebuttal evidence. The parties subsequently briefed the County's motion and submitted post-trial briefs. The court now finds that petitioners did not present sufficient, credible evidence to overcome the prima facie validity of the County's assessment.

1

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. Petitioners Harlan R. Anderson, Mary J. Anderson, Richard A. Anderson, and Mark W. Anderson (the Andersons) have sufficient interest in the subject properties to bring this petition; all statutory and jurisdictional requirements have been complied with, and the court has jurisdiction over the subject properties and the parties.

2. The subject properties constitute a fully functioning, integrated farm operated by the Anderson family. They grow corn, wheat, soybeans, and alfalfa.

3. The subject properties are in rural Wright County and were valued under Minnesota Statutes section 273.111 (2020) (the "Green Acres" statute).

4. The Andersons did not provide sufficient, credible evidence to support their claim that the County's Green Acres valuation of the subject properties was in error.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

1. The Andersons failed to overcome the prima facie validity of the County's assessment with respect to their overvaluation claim.

2. Because the Andersons have not successfully challenged the County's assessment, it must be affirmed.

ORDER FOR JUDGMENT

1. The Wright County Assessor's estimated market value for the subject properties as of January 2, 2018, is hereby affirmed.

2

IT IS SO ORDERED. THIS IS A FINAL ORDER. A STAY OF 30 DAYS IS HEREBY ORDERED. LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.

MEMORANDUM

JANE N. BOWMAN, JUDGE

1. Background

Petitioners Harlan R. Anderson, Mary J. Anderson, Richard A. Anderson, and Mark W. Anderson own and operate a fully integrated family farm in rural Wright County. See Anderson v. Cnty. of Wright, No. 86-CV-20-2479, 2021 WL 2557313, at *3 (Minn. T.C. June 18, 2021) (so holding in a separate, but related matter). The Andersons grow corn, wheat, soybeans, and alfalfa.[1]The farm, comprised of the subject properties at issue here, are enrolled in and taxed under the Green Acres program authorized by Minnesota Statutes chapter 273 (2020).[2]

On April 23, 2019, the Andersons timely filed a property tax petition contesting the January 2, 2018 assessment. Anderson v. Cnty. of Wright, No. 86-CV-19-2167, 2021 WL 423922, at *1 (Minn. T.C. Feb. 3, 2021). The County then moved (1) to dismiss for failure to comply with an administrative rule and, in the alternative, (2) to partially dismiss the Andersons' Green Acres

3

parcels for a failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Id. The court denied those motions and granted the Andersons leave to remedy the petition's defect. Id. Subsequently, the Andersons retained current counsel and amended their petition accordingly. Id.

The parties presented evidence at a July 13, 2021 trial at the Minnesota Judicial Center in St. Paul. At the close of the Andersons' case-in-chief, the County moved under Rule 41.02(b) of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss the petition for failure to overcome the prima facie validity of the assessment.[3] The parties agreed to address the County's motion via subsequently-filed written submissions.[4] The County then presented its case-in-chief.[5] At the close of trial, the Andersons-with the consent of the County-voluntarily dismissed one parcel, which was not enrolled in the Green Acres program, from their 16-parcel petition.[6] In post-trial briefs, the parties disputed the value of the subject properties and the County's motion to dismiss. The court deemed these matters submitted as of September 7, 2021.[7]

II. Governing Law

A. An Assessment's Presumptive Validity

"[A]n appeal to the Tax Court may be taken … from … any matter over which the [tax] court is granted jurisdiction …." Minn. Stat. § 271.06, subd. 1 (2020). However, "the order of … the appropriate unit of government in every case shall be prima facie valid." Minn. Stat. § 271.06, subd. 6(a) (2020) (emphasis added). Minnesota Statutes section 272.06, which governs the

4

property tax assessment at issue here, further provides that "[a]ll such assessments … shall be presumed to be legal until the contrary is affirmatively shown[.]" Minn. Stat. § 272.06 (2020) (emphasis added).

Reading these two statutes in conjunction, the Supreme Court recognizes "a presumption of validity for the county's assessment." Court Park Co. v. Cnty. of Hennepin, 907 N.W.2d 641, 644 (Minn. 2018) (citing S. Minn. Beet Sugar Coop v. Cnty. of Renville (SMBSC), 737 N.W.2d 545, 557 (Minn. 2007). "[T]o defeat the prima facie validity of the assessment, the taxpayer must offer evidence to invalidate the assessment." SMBSC, 737 N.W.2d at 558; see also Conga Corp. v. Comm'r of Revenue, 868 N.W.2d 41, 53 (Minn. 2015) ("When a taxpayer presents substantial evidence that the Commissioner's assessment order is invalid or incorrect, the presumption of validity is overcome …."); Guardian Energy, LLC v. Cnty. of Waseca, 868 N.W.2d 253, 258 n.6 (Minn. 2015) ("A county's presumptively valid tax assessment … may be successfully challenged with credible evidence that the assessor's estimated market value is incorrect ….").

Generally, a property owner's testimony as to the valuation is admissible at trial. See Beck v. Cnty. of Todd, 824 N.W.2d 636 (Minn. 2013) (holding that, generally, the testimony of a property owner is admissible). An owner is not required to offer a written appraisal and the tax court must consider the owner's testimony. Id. at 639-41. As always, however, the court "determines 'the weight and credibility'" of such testimony. Id. at 639 (citing Alstores Realty, Inc. v. State, 286 Minn. 343, 353, 176 N.W.2d 112, 118 (1970)).

B. Involuntary Dismissals under Rule 41.02(b)

Wright County brought its mid-trial motion to dismiss under Rule 41.02(b) of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure which states, in relevant part:

After the plaintiff has completed the presentation of evidence, the defendant, without waiving the right to offer evidence in the event the motion is not granted

5

may move for a dismissal on the ground that upon the facts and the law, the plaintiff has shown no right to relief

Whether a county can bring a motion to dismiss under Rule 41.02(b) of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure at the close of a property tax petitioner's case is an open question. Court Park Co., 907 N.W.2d at 645 n.4 (in declining to separately analyze evidence under a Rule 41.02(b) standard, the supreme court stated: "Because the tax statutes [concerning the presumptive validity of assessments] control in the event of a conflict [with the Rules of Civil Procedure], we need not separately interpret Rule 41.02(b).").[8] We note, however, that the Andersons' statutory burden to overcome the prima facie validity of the assessment is the same even if the County is able to rely on Rule 41.02(b). See Court Park Co., 907 N.W.2d at 645. As a result, we need not separately analyze the County's motion.[9]

C. Green Acres

Generally, "all property shall be valued at its market value." Minn. Stat. § 273.11. The legislature has provided for several exceptions to this general rule, however, allowing for a lower value to be attributed to certain types of real estate, such as the subject property-a family-operated farm. In 1967, the legislature enacted the "Minnesota Agricultural Property Tax Law," colloquially known as the Green Acres statute. Minn. Stat. § 273.111, subd. 1. The problem to be solved by the Green Acres statute is as follows:

With the exploding expansion and development in urban areas over the past few decades, there have been rapidly increasing land values in the periphery of

6

metropolitan areas. Both the value of farmland located in those areas and real estate taxes based upon that value have increased accordingly. These higher property taxes, coupled with special assessments caused by sewer and water improvement projects for new development on the fringes of established urban areas which often must pass through intervening farmland, have become so great in many cases that the owner is no longer financially able to continue the agricultural use of the land. This, in turn, has led to forced sales and other hardships to the owners of such land The legislature recognized this problem and, in 1967, passed the green acres legislation designed to provide property tax relief so that the land could economically be continued in use for agricultural purposes

Elwell v. Hennepin Cnty., 221 N.W.2d 538, 541 (Minn. 1974).

Having determined that the "present general system of ad valorem property taxation … does not...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT