Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County in case of In Re: Appeal of the Township of South Whitehall, a Municipal Corporation and First Class Township from the Decisions of the Board of Assessment Appeals of the County of Lehigh, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 363 January Term, 1976.
James L. Weirbach, for Laneco, Inc.
Anthony R. Thompson, with him McGee and Thompson, for Holiday Inns.
J. Jackson Eaton, III, with him Butz, Hudders & Tallman, for Township of South Whitehall.
Alfred K. Hettinger, for County of Lehigh, Board of Assessment Appeals.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Blatt, DiSalle and Craig. Judges Rogers and MacPhail did not participate. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson, Jr.
[ 38 Pa. Commw. Page 562]
These cases involve tax appeals of real estate assessments by the property owners (taxpayers herein), Holiday Inns, Inc. at No. 1895 C.D. 1977 and Laneco, Inc. at No. 2111 C.D. 1977, from orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County. Since common issues of law are involved, the appeals have been consolidated for the purposes of argument. For reasons set forth, we affirm the orders of the court of common pleas.
In August 1975 the Township of South Whitehall (Township) filed several challenges to assessments with the Board of Assessment Appeals (Board), alleging
[ 38 Pa. Commw. Page 563]
errors in market value determinations. The challenged assessments had been established in a county-wide reassessment program completed in 1974 and implemented by the county for the 1975 tax year, with a fixed ratio for assessment purposes of 50 per cent of actual value. Pursuant to these appeals, the Board made revised assessments, all of which were accepted by the Township except the two at issue here. On appeal of these two cases to the court of common pleas, the Township again raised the issue of market value; the taxpayers introduced countervailing testimony on this issue and also raised the issue of the uniformity of the assessment ratio. The evidence on uniformity of the assessment ratio consisted of testimony by a real estate appraiser and a computer systems analyst concerning a study conducted by them of recent real estate transfers in the county. The data for this study was obtained from the county's report to the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB), purchased by the taxpayers from the Lehigh County Computer Center. According to the systems analyst, a statistical analysis of arm's length transactions (identified in the STEB report by the real estate appraiser) showed the average assessed ratio to be 36.6 per cent of actual market value. The Township objected to the introduction of this evidence based on the prohibition of Section 17 of the Act of June 27, 1947 (Act), P.L. 1046, as amended, 72 P.S. § 4656.17. The trial court, however, considered this evidence, but concluded that, in light of the county-wide reassessment and establishment of a fixed ratio, the taxpayers failed to carry their burden of showing lack of uniformity.
Since the issue of market value relates only to the appeal of Holiday Inns, Inc., we will deal with it initially. The record shows the property is a motel complex on a ...