Marion Cnty. Assessor v. Coll. Park Club, Inc., Cause No. 21T-TA-00001

Docket NºCause No. 21T-TA-00001
Citation186 N.E.3d 1214
Case DateApril 05, 2022
CourtTax Court of Indiana

186 N.E.3d 1214

MARION COUNTY ASSESSOR, Petitioner,
v.
COLLEGE PARK CLUB, INC., Respondent.

Cause No. 21T-TA-00001

Tax Court of Indiana.

April 5, 2022


ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER: JESSICA R. GASTINEAU, SPECIAL COUNSEL – TAX LITIGATION OFFICE OF CORPORATION COUNSEL, Indianapolis, IN

ATTORNEY FOR RESPONDENT: BRADLEY D. HASLER, DENTONS BINGHAM GREENEBAUM LLP, Indianapolis, IN

WENTWORTH, J.

The Marion County Assessor appeals from the Indiana Board of Tax Review's

186 N.E.3d 1216

final determination granting College Park Club, Inc.’s real property a common area property tax exemption under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-10-37.5 for tax years 2016 and 2017. Upon review, the Court affirms the Indiana Board's final determination.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

College Park is the not-for-profit homeowners’ association for the residential subdivision of College Park Estates, located in Indianapolis, Indiana. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 3 - 4, 27-28, 37-38, 155.) College Park owns the approximately six acre vacant lot within the community known as the "Colby Green Area," which is used as green space. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 3 - 4, 27-28, 37-38, 155, 162). College Park purchased the land that comprises the Colby Green Area from the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis, Inc. in July of 2014. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 27-28.) While under the Jewish Federation's ownership, that land was exempt from property taxation. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 4, 36.)

On September 23, 2016, the Assessor sent a letter to College Park stating that he had become aware of the change in ownership of the land in the Colby Green Area. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 36.) The letter explained that the previously granted property tax exemption would be suspended until College Park provided

an affidavit as required under [ Indiana Code §] 6-1.1-11-4, signed under the penalties of perjury, which:

• Identifies the new owners of the property[; and]

• Indicates that the property continues to meet the requirements for an exemption under [ Indiana Code §§] 6-1.1-10-21, [ ] 6-1.1-10-16, [ ] 6-1.1-10-24 or other.

*****

If you have not provided the Marion County Assessor's office with the affidavit by October 23, 2016, you are hereby notified that your exemption is suspended, and will continue to be suspended until such time as the requirements of IC 6-1.1-11-4 are satisfied.

Please note, for the exemption to continue the year following the change[,] a completed form 136 must be timely filed by April 1, 2017.

(Cert. Admin. R. at 36.)

On October 14, 2016, College Park responded by email to the Assessor's letter. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 39.) Through various documents attached to that email, College Park provided the Assessor with: (1) notice that the Colby Green Area qualified for an exemption under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-10-37.5 as common area property, (2) College Park's governing documents, and (3) the various versions of the covenants and restrictions for the residential community. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 39-97.) The Assessor did not respond to College Park's email. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 169-70, 182.)

Sometime in 2017, however, the Assessor instructed College Park that for the land in the Colby Green Area to qualify for the exemption under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-10-37.5, it needed to be re-platted with the words "Common Area" appearing on the recorded document. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 171, 177-78.) College Park had the Colby Green Area re-platted and recorded that document on December 15, 2017. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 35, 171, 177-78.)

In 2018, College Park learned that the Colby Green Area received the common area property tax exemption for 2018 going forward, but not for the 2016 and 2017

186 N.E.3d 1217

tax years. Accordingly, College Park filed two Forms 130 ("Notice[s] to Initiate An Appeal") contending that the exemption had been improperly denied for both the 2016 and 2017 tax years. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 3 - 4, 7 - 8.) When the Marion County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals failed to act on the appeals in a timely manner, College Park transitioned them to the Indiana Board. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 1 - 2, 5 - 6.) See also IND. CODE § 6-1.1-15-1.2(k) (2018) (indicating that when a property tax assessment board of appeals failed to conduct a hearing on an appeal within 180 days of its filing, an appeal could be initiated directly with the Indiana Board).

The Indiana Board held a telephonic hearing on June 23, 2020, and issued a final determination in the matter on November 18, 2020. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 143, 151.) In its final determination, the Indiana Board explained that under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-10-37.5(f), after a taxpayer notifies an assessor of the recorded common area property, the assessor is required to respond within thirty days. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 147-48 ¶¶ 17-18.) The Indiana Board concluded that because College Park provided proper notice, but the Assessor had failed to respond in a timely manner, the Colby Green Area land was deemed to be an exempt common area by default in both 2016 and 2017 under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-10-37.5(g). (See Cert. Admin. R. at 143 ¶ 2, 148-49 ¶¶ 19, 21.)

The Assessor initiated an original tax appeal on January 4, 2021. The Court heard the parties’ oral argument on July 27, 2021. Additional facts will be supplied as necessary.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The party seeking to overturn an Indiana Board final determination bears the burden of demonstrating its invalidity. CVS Corp. v. Searcy, 137 N.E.3d 1053, 1055 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2019). Accordingly, the Assessor must demonstrate to the Court that the Indiana Board's final determination in this matter is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law; contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity; in excess of or short of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; without observance of the procedure required by law; or unsupported by substantial or reliable evidence. See IND. CODE § 33-26-6-6(e)(1)-(5) (2022).

LAW

The common area property tax exemption, which is at the heart of this litigation, is codified at Indiana Code § 6-1.1-10-37.5 and provides, in relevant part, as follows:

(a) As used in this section, "common area" means a parcel of land, including improvements, in a residential development that:

(1) is legally reserved for the exclusive use and enjoyment of all lot owners, occupants, and their guests, regardless of whether a lot owner makes actual use of the land;

(2) is owned by:

(A) the developer, or the developer's assignee, provided such ownership is in a fiduciary capacity for the exclusive benefit of all lot owners in the residential development, and the developer has relinquished all rights to transfer the property other than to a person or entity that will hold title to the property in a fiduciary capacity for the exclusive benefit of all lot owners;

(B) each lot owner within the residential development, equally or pro rata; or
186 N.E.3d 1218
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