Hutensky v. Town of Avon

Decision Date18 July 1972
Citation311 A.2d 92,163 Conn. 433
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesAllan HUTENSKY, Trustee, v. TOWN OF AVON.

Paul W. Orth, Hartford, with whom, on the brief, was Robert C. Hunt, Jr., Hartford, for appellant (defendant).

Louise H. Hunt, Hartford, with whom, on the brief, was David Kotkin, Hartford, for appellee (plaintiff).


LOISELLE, Associate Justice.

The plaintiff Allan Hutensky, trustee, appealed to the Court of Common Pleas from the refusal of the board of tax review of the town of Avon to reduce the valuation placed on his real estate located in the town of Avon. At the request of counsel for the plaintiff, the court referred the case to a referee who, acting as the court, reduced the valuation and the defendant town of Avon has appealed. 1

The defendant assigns error in several findings, conclusions and rulings of the court. A number of these assignments were not pursued in the defendant's brief and are, therefore, considered abandoned Stoner v. Stoner, 163 Conn. 345, 307 A.2d 146; Southern New England Telephone Co. v. Rosenberg, 159 Conn. 503, 509, 271 A.2d 87. Notwithstanding the fact that the assignments of error attacking the finding in eight respects as found without evidence are considered abandoned, an examination of the appendices indicates that these attacked findings are supported by the evidence. With respect to the remaining assignments of error, the defendant argues that (1) the court abused its discretion by reducing the valuation of the Avon property when the assessor's action had not been discriminatory or so unreasonable that the property was substantially overvalued, and that (2) the court's conclusions as to the value of the property were not supported by the evidence.

The court found the following facts: The plaintiff purchased a tract of land which is partly within the town of Simsbury and partly within the town of Avon. The parcel is located in the vicinity of the intersection of routes 44 and 167. That part of the tract located within Avon is triangular in shape, with a 500-foot southern edge fronting on route 44, a 250-foot eastern edge running to a point, and an area of 64,904 square feet or 1.49 acres. It was in an established business area of Avon, partly at street grade and level, contained no site improvements, and was subject to a requirement prohibiting construction within seventy-five feet of route 44. Its area, shape and setback building line make it a difficult lot for building construction. The plaintiff purchased the Avon property in conjunction with the adjoining Simsbury land for commercial development, the best use for the land. The Avon property was purchased by the plaintiff from Newton MacDonald and was formerly a portion of a large tract in Avon owned by MacDonald and assessed as a single parcel. The value of the Avon parcel was enhanced by its use in conjunction with the Simsbury tract.

Due to the severance of the triangular parcel from the MacDonald property, the Avon assessor redetermined the value of the plaintiff's land as of October 1, 1968. He first used a front-foot factor with an additional depth factor. The assessor concluded that this method of valuation was unfair. He then used a valuation of $1.25 per square foot, which is equivalent to the valuation of a normal lot 200 feet by 200 feet in size, based on the $250 front-foot factor which the assessor customarily used. This is the same unit evaluation as that applied in a 1967 general evaluation of the MacDonald property before the triangular parcel was severed from it in June, 1968.

In the opinion of a qualified appraiser appearing for the defendant, the value of the plaintiff's Avon land, based on comparable sales, was $1.50 per square foot. Appraisers appearing for the plaintiff respectively considered the fair market value of the Avon parcel, based on comparable sales, to be $28,900, or .44 1/2cents per square foot, and $28,831, or $19,530 per acre. The valuations of the plaintiff's qualified appraisers represent the price which the plaintiff paid for the whole tract lying in both Avon and Simsbury, divided by the number of square feet, or acres, that the tract contained. The court found that a unit value of $1.25 per square foot was excessive in view of the size, shape and setback requirement of the Avon parcel. These factors reduce the 'buildability' and value of the Avon property. The sales of comparable property were made at 40cents to 50cents per square foot. The court concluded that the plaintiff's Avon property had a value of 50cents per square foot.

An appeal from a decision of a board of tax review invokes the equitable powers of the court and is governed by General Statutes § 12-118. That section provides that '(t)he court shall have power to grant such relief as to justice and equity appertains.' The court is not limited to a review of whether an assessor's action has been unreasonable or discriminatory or has resulted in substantial overvaluation. Mere overvaluation is enough to justify redress under § 12-118. E. Ingraham Co. v. Bristol, 146 Conn. 403, 409, 151 A.2d 700 cert. denied, 361 U.S. 929, 80 S.Ct. 367, 4 L.Ed.2d 352; Cooley Chevrolet v. West Haven, 146 Conn. 165, 166, 148 A.2d 327. A taxpayer who is aggrieved by the decision of the board of tax review has an appeal to the courts, where the matter is tried de novo. Sibley v. Middlefield, 143 Conn. 100, 106, 120 A.2d 77; Connecticut Savings Bank v. New Haven, 131 Conn. 575, 584, 586, 41 A.2d 765; Edgewood School, Inc. v. Greenwich, 765; Edgewood 184, 38 A.2d 792. In the appeal to the court, the ultimate question is the ascertainment of the true and actual value of the plaintiff's property. Dickau v. Glastonbury, 156 Conn. 437, 441, 444, ...

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