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Macy's Inc. v. Board of Property Assessment

January 22, 2013

MACY'S INC.
v.
BOARD OF PROPERTY ASSESSMENT, APPEALS, REVIEW OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY LOT AND BLOCK 130-J-110 BOROUGH OF HOMESTEAD APPEAL OF: STEEL VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dan Pellegrini, President Judge

Argued: November 13, 2012

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge (P.) HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge

OPINION BY PRESIDENT JUDGE PELLEGRINI

Steel Valley School District (District) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (trial court) adopting the recommendation of the Special Board of Viewers (Board of Viewers)*fn1 fixing the assessed value of real property owned by Macy's Inc. (Macy's) located in the District as $6,330,000 for 2009; $7,450,000 for 2010; and $8,500,000 for 2011. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part and vacate and remand in part.

The subject property is a 2.08-acre site improved with a two-story retail building located in the Waterfront Town Center in the Borough of Homestead, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. On March 31, 2009, Macy's appealed the property's assessment for tax year 2009 to the Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County (Board). Following the Board's denial of Macy's petition, Macy's appealed to the trial court. On July 28, 2011, the Board of Viewers of Allegheny County, acting as Board of Viewers for the trial court, held an evidentiary hearing on the property's assessments for the 2009, 2010 and 2011 tax years.*fn2

At the hearing, the Board of Viewers took judicial notice of Allegheny County's (County) assessed value of $10,723,600 for tax years 2009, 2010 and 2011; and heard testimony from both parties regarding the fair market value of the property. Gary E. Heiland (Heiland), a commercial real estate appraiser testifying for Macy's, opined that the property's fair market value was $3,240,000 as of March 31, 2009, and $3,240,000 as of January 1, 2010. Heiland did not offer testimony as to the property's fair market value for 2011. The District's expert witness, Gary R. Bodnar (Bodnar), a certified general real estate appraiser, opined that the property's fair market value for 2009 through 2011 was $8,750,000. Following the hearing, the Board of Viewers declared the assessed value of the property as $6,330,000 for 2009; $7,450,000 for 2010; and $8,500,000 for 2011. The District then filed objections to the Board of Viewers' recommendation with the trial court challenging its determination for the years 2009 and 2011. The trial court overruled the District's objections and adopted the Board of Viewers' recommendation. This appeal by the District followed.*fn3

On appeal, the District first contends that the trial court erred in adopting the Board of Viewers' recommendation of fair market value for 2009 because Macy's expert testified of the value of the property on March 31, 2009, not January 1, 2009, the effective date of the assessment, and, thus, did not successfully rebut the assessment record.*fn4 The District based its position on Section 10 of the Second Class County Assessment Law, Act of June 21, 1939, P.L. 626, as amended,72 P.S. §5452.10, which provides, in relevant part:

(c) In any appeal of an assessment the board[*fn5 ] shall make the following determinations:

(1) The current fair market value for the tax year in question.

72 P.S. §5452.10(c)(1). The District contends that section provides that the Board must determine the fair market value of a property as of January 1, regardless of what date the assessment appeal is filed, because in a Second Class County, a "tax year" commences on January 1 and ends on December 31. Under the District's interpretation, any appraisal not based on a property's value as of January 1, 2009, is a nullity, and, therefore, Heiland's valuation of the property as of March 31, 2009, is irrelevant and has no probative value as to fair market value. According to the District, then, the only relevant evidence before the Board of Viewers was the opinion of the District's expert valuing the property at $8,750,000, and the County assessment of $10,723,600 for 2009 and, therefore, the Board of Viewers erred in recommending a fair market value of $6,330,000 for that year.

Macy's contends that Section 10 of the Second Class County Assessment Law does not apply because it does not specify the date which the Board shall use to determine market value, only the tax year. Because the Second Class County Assessment Law does not apply, it argues that Section 511 of the General County Assessment Law then applies.*fn6 That section provides, in relevant part:

(b) In any appeal of an assessment.the board for the assessment and revision of taxes, shall make the following determinations:

(1) The market value as of the date such appeal was filed.

72 P.S. ยง5020-511(b)(1). Because that section requires a determination of "market value as of the date such appeal was filed," and it filed its appeal on March 31, 2009, Macy's argues that its appraisal ...


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