Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Jan. T., 1961, No. 85, in re appeal of Rieck Ice Cream Company from assessment of Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County.
John F. Murphy, Assistant County Solicitor, with him Francis A. Barry, First Assistant County Solicitor, and Maurice Louik, County Solicitor, for appellant.
Daniel L. Cohen, with him Alexander Cooper, and Cooper, Goodman & Schwartz, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell. Mr. Justice Musmanno joins in this Dissenting Opinion.
Rieck Ice Cream Company (Rieck) was the owner of certain property located in the Fifteenth Ward of the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, on January 1, 1960, the beginning of the triennial assessment period
, 1961 and 1962. It was notified by the Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County (Board) that for this period the assessed valuation on the property would be $717,555. This represented an increase from the preceding triennium of $191,670, all of which reflected, as specifically shown in the assessment notice, an increase in the assessed value of the main building on the premises. Rieck appealed to the Board for revision, but was refused any relief; and it thereafter appealed to the court below.
At the hearing before the lower court, the Board introduced the assessment and rested. Rieck then produced testimony by an engineer and two real estate appraisers regarding the nature and value of the building*fn1 which was revalued in the assessment. The gist of their testimony, in toto, was that the building was a special purpose one for the manufacture of ice cream, that no physical changes had taken place from the preceding triennium in the structure, that the market value of the building was between $950,000 and $1,000,000 as compared to the assessed value of $562,350 and that the market value of the only comparable property (another ice cream plant) was between $3,000,000 and $3,300,000 as compared to an assessed value of $988,835.
The court below, relying on the testimony that there had been no change in the building from the preceding triennium and on the testimony regarding the different ratios of assessed to market values between the subject plant and the "comparable" plant, ordered the
assessment on the main building reduced to $450,000. The Board appealed.
Initially, the Board complains that the lower court's reliance on the absence of any physical change in the building from the preceding triennium was erroneous. We agree. The lower court improperly held that appellant met the burden of proof to overcome the presumption of the validity of the assessment of the main building by testimony of a highly competent engineer that there had been no change made in the building from the time of the preceding triennial assessment in the amount of $370,680. This error undoubtedly resulted from its belief that the prior assessment of the building was res judicata on the question of fair market value in the current ...