Young v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, 22T-TA-00002

Citation22T-TA-00002
Case DateAugust 31, 2022
CourtTax Court of Indiana

ANDY YOUNG, Petitioner,
v.

LAKE COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent.

No. 22T-TA-00002

Tax Court of Indiana

August 31, 2022


ON APPEAL FROM FOUR FINAL DETERMINATIONS OF THE INDIANA BOARD OF TAX REVIEW

PETITIONER APPEARING PRO SE: ANDY YOUNG Wadsworth

ATTORNEY FOR RESPONDENT: RICARDO A. HALL KOPKA PINKUS DOLIN PC Crown Point

WENTWORTH, J.

Andy Young appeals the Indiana Board of Tax Review's final determinations that reduced one of his four residential real property assessments for the 2017 tax year. Upon review, the Court affirms the Indiana Board's final determinations.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Between August 2003 and October 2006, Young purchased the four residential properties that are the subject of this appeal: (1) Parcel No. 45-08-18-427-031.000-003 ("Parcel 1"), (2) Parcel No. 45-08-18-427-034.000-003 ("Parcel 2"); (3) Parcel No. 45-08-19-126-014.000-003 ("Parcel 3"), and (4) Parcel No. 45-08-18-428-020.000-003 ("Parcel 4").[1]

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(See Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 105-09; Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 2 at 23-25; Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 3 at 23-28; Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 4 at 23-26.) Each of the 11,700 square foot parcels were located in Gary, Calumet Township, Lake County, Indiana. (Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 105-06; Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 3 at 23-24; Cert. Admin. R. Vols. 2 and 4 at 23.) Parcel 1 had a 1,032 square foot residence and Parcel 3 had a 777 square foot residence with a 20' x 22' detached garage; Parcels 2 and 4 had no improvements. (Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 105-06; Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 3 at 23-24; Cert. Admin. R. Vols. 2 and 4 at 23.)

For the 2017 tax year, the Calumet Township Assessor valued Parcel 1 at $8,500; Parcel 3 at $6,100; and Parcels 2 and 4 at $4,300 each. (Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 105-06; Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 3 at 23-24; Cert. Admin. R. Vols. 2 and 4 at 23.) Believing those values to be too high, Young sought review with the Lake County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (the "PTABOA") in May of 2018. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 9-19.) On November 19, 2020, the PTABOA notified Young that while it had reduced the assessment of Parcel 1 from $8,500 to $7,400, it made no changes to the assessments of Parcels 2, 3, and 4. (Cert. Admin. R. Vols. 1 to 4 at 6-8.)

Unsatisfied with the PTABOA's decisions, Young filed four appeals with the Indiana Board on January 5, 2021, electing to have each heard under the Indiana Board's small claims procedures. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at Summ. Proc. Before Ind. Bd. Tax Rev., 1-5.) On September 27, 2021, the Indiana Board held back-to-back

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hearings on the four separate appeals.[2]

Young's Evidentiary Presentation to the Indiana Board

During the Indiana Board hearings, Young claimed that his properties' assessments failed to reflect their market values. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 131-38.) Young explained that this was the case because the assessed values of properties in Calumet Township, particularly the base rates used to determine the assessed value of land, had not reflected actual market values for years. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 131-38; Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 2 at 126-27; Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 4 at 122-23.) Moreover, Young claimed that the assessed value assigned to Parcel 3's improvements should be removed because the Assessor's records had not been updated to reflect that the buildings had been removed as early as 2007.[3] (See Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 3 at 137-40.) As evidence to support his claims, Young presented, among other things, a set of documents for each parcel that contained: copies of emails, a page from a newspaper, a request for proposals, excerpts from five appraisals of other properties, a land comparison chart, and a settlement agreement. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 37-100, 139-40, 145-46.)

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The Emails

Young offered a copy of a 2006 email exchange between himself and certain Lake County assessing officials regarding approximately 1,700 properties in Gary that were sold for approximately $10.00 each during an October 2004 tax sale. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 102-04.) Young asked the assessing officials to adjust the properties' assessed values to coincide with their lower sales prices to avoid "throw[ing] off" Gary's annual budgeting process. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 103-04.) In response, one of the assessing officials sent an email both to his colleagues and to Young that acknowledged that "[s]ome of the [properties'] assessed values [were] waaay above" their sales prices and suggested that "[s]omeone need[ed] to do a little math and reduce those values." (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 102 (emphasis added).) Young maintained, however, that nothing was ever done. (See Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 149-50.)

The Newspaper Page

The newspaper page, dated October 27, 2008, contained a list of approximately 80 residential properties that were to be offered for sale in "as is" condition by Gary's Redevelopment Commission (the "Commission"). (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 37.) The list of properties included columns that provided each property's key number, address, legal description, assessed value, zoning code, lot size, and appraised value. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 37.) The lot sizes of the properties ranged from 1,800 to 5,625 square feet (with the majority being 3,750 square feet), the assessed values of the properties ranged from $90 to $45,900, and the appraised values ranged from $125 to $225 (with the majority being at $150). (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 37.) Young maintained that this "background information" illustrated the historical disparities between

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the assessments and market values of properties in Calumet Township. (See Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 136-37.)

The Request for Proposals

Young provided a copy of the Commission's request for proposals document that solicited sealed bids for developing 138 "[s]cattered site parcels generally bounded north and south by 25th Avenue and I80/94 (Borman Expressway) and east and west between Chase Street and Burr Street" during the month of October 2019. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 38-53 (emphasis omitted).) The request for proposals simply listed the 138 properties, their parcel numbers, and their addresses. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 44-50.) Young explained that because the Commission was required to have the properties appraised before offering them for sale, the minimum sales price of $275,000 reflected their collective market value. (See Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 132.) Young went on to compute the individual value of the 138 properties as follows:

Out of th[e] 138 parcels[,] we know one parcel is 35 acres. If you took the very minimum, minimum, minimum acreage value for [these] 35 acres[,] which would be $2,000 for undeveloped unusable, that would be $70,000 off the top. You would have $205,000, which you would then divide [by] the other 137 [parcels], $205,000 divided by 137 equals $1,496. So . . . we have to assume [that] their appraisal came in at approximately $1,496 for a similar lot. Now we also know that some of these [parcels] are double and triple lots[,] so that would even bring that amount down.

(Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 133.) Young explained that the request for proposals showed that several properties located near his four appealed parcels that had identical characteristics were over-assessed just like his four parcels. (See Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 132-33, 138-39; Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 2 at 123-24.)

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The Appraisals

Young also offered excerpts from five appraisals that valued vacant parcels in Calumet Township for either the year at issue or February 15, 2020.[4] (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 54-89, 91-100.) More specifically, the valuations in the three appraisals for the year at issue ranged from $50 to $1,000 for vacant land totaling between 4,375 to 10,050 square feet. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 54-89.) In turn, the other two appraisals for the valuation date of February 15, 2020, provided that the land value of a 4,120 square foot vacant parcel was $300, and the land value of a vacant parcel totaling 4,675 square feet was $350. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 91-100.) Young explained that the appraisals were further evidence of the disparity between the assessed values and market values of land in Calumet Township. (See Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 140-49.)

The Land Comparison Chart

Young also provided a one-page land comparison chart derived from one of the five appraisals. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at 90, 146.) It contained sales data (i.e., the addresses, list prices, sale dates, sale prices, lot sizes, and sale prices per square foot) for 30 vacant lots in Hammond and East Chicago that were sold between 2014 and 2017. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. Vol. 1 at...

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