Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County in case of In Re: Appeal of New Castle Central Renewal Associates from the Board of Assessment Appeals of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, No. 152 of 1975 M.D.
Frederick A. Boehm, with him John P. Klee, and Baskin, Boreman, Wilner, Sachs, Gondelman & Craig, for appellant.
Frank G. Verterano, County Solicitor, for appellee.
Judges Mencer, Rogers and DiSalle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer.
[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 586]
New Castle Central Renewal Associates (Central) was the owner of two tracts of land in downtown New Castle, Pennsylvania. The two tracts are contiguous and rectangular, with overall dimensions of approximately 442 feet by 326 feet, and built thereon are two banks, two drive-in banking facilities, and eight other rental units, in addition to a parking area.
The Board of Assessment Appeals of Lawrence County (Board) fixed the market value of Central's property for 1976 at $1,682,233 and the assessed value at 30 percent of market value, or $504,670. On appeal by Central, the court below fixed the market value of Central's property at $1,143,804 and the assessed value for tax purposes at $343,250. From the final order which dismissed exceptions filed by both Central and the Board, Central took this appeal.
Our review of the court's determination is very limited. As we stated in Pittsburgh Miracle Mile Town and Country Shopping Center, Inc., Tax Appeals, 6 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 187, 196, 294 A.2d 226, 231 (1972), "[t]he dimensions of our review in this kind of case are small. The findings of the court of common pleas must be given great force and may not be set aside by us unless clear error appears."
Central's first contention is that the court below erred in not considering the testimony of W. Henry Wettich. Mr. Wettich was the former Chief Assessor for Lawrence County, and his testimony was taken by deposition. Central offered this deposition for the purposes of establishing the assessment procedures followed in Lawrence County and of showing that the assessment in question was incorrectly made. The solicitor for Lawrence County objected to the admission
[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 587]
of the deposition, and the court reserved ruling on its admissibility. Our search of the record does not reveal any subsequent ruling by the court relative to this deposition. Also, the record does not reveal any further attempt by counsel to introduce the deposition in evidence or to invite the court's attention to its oversight in failing to rule on the admissibility of the deposition.
However, the proceeding before the court below was de novo, and the court, on the basis of evidence in the record, determined the market value of the property in question. Pocono Downs, Inc. v. Board for Assessment and Revision of Taxes, 11 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 81, 312 A.2d 452 (1973). The court based its decision upon the testimony of expert witnesses and did not consider the assessments made by the Board in arriving at its findings of fair market value. Therefore Central suffered no prejudice because of its inability to have the deposition pertaining to the method of assessment admitted.
Central next objects to the court's ruling that Claude N. Butler, called by the County, was allowed to offer testimony as an expert witness. Central contends that, since Mr. Butler is not a licensed real estate broker in this Commonwealth but is qualified only to act as a real estate salesman, he is not permitted to appraise real estate The qualifications of an expert witness is a matter for the discretion of the trial judge and his ruling in that regard will not be ...