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Pedersen v. Monroe County Board of Assessment Appeals

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

January 14, 2014

John Pedersen, Appellant
v.
Monroe County Board of Assessment Appeals

ARGUED: December 9, 2013

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge

OPINION

BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge

John Pedersen appeals from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County (common pleas or trial court), denying his real estate tax assessment appeal, thereby affirming the Monroe County Board of Assessment Appeals' (Board) determination that Pedersen's storage shed was taxable under The Consolidated County Assessment Law (Assessment Law), 53 Pa. C.S. §§ 8801 – 8868. After review, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Pedersen owns a small home, approximately 1300 square feet in size, in Stroud Township, Monroe County. In order to increase his storage space, Pedersen applied for a zoning permit in 2012 to place a shed measuring 10 feet by 20 feet on his property. Thereafter, a prefabricated shed with a garage-style rolling door and wooden floor was delivered to his property on a roll back truck. The shed was placed on support beams sitting on a bed of stones. The shed lacks windows, heat, electricity, and plumbing. Aesthetically, the shed matches the exterior of Pedersen's home. The shed is not physically affixed to the ground in any manner and can be moved to another location in the same manner in which it was delivered. Subsequent to placement of the shed, the Monroe County Assessment Office increased the fair market value of Pedersen's property by $2040, rendering a total market value of $88, 498.[1] Pedersen appealed the increased assessment and the Board denied relief. Common pleas affirmed on appeal. In doing so, the trial court applied the analysis adopted by this court in other cases to determine whether chattel used in connection with real estate can be considered to be part of the realty for purposes of assessment. In concluding that the shed was taxable, the trial court placed primary emphasis on Pedersen's site preparation (installation of a rock bed, which served no other purpose than to situate the shed and would require some effort to remove) and the finding that Pedersen intended to use the shed for needed additional storage for an indefinite period of time. This appeal followed.

Before addressing the argument raised on appeal, we note that Section 8811(a) of The Consolidated County Assessment Law (Assessment Law) provides, in pertinent part:

(a) Subjects of taxation enumerated.—Except as provided in subsection (b), all subjects and property made taxable by the laws of this Commonwealth for county, city, borough, town, township and school district purposes shall, as provided in this chapter, be valued and assessed at the annual rates, including all:
(1)Real estate, namely:
(i) houses;
(ii) house trailers and mobile homes permanently attached to land or connected with water, gas, electric or sewage facilities;
(iii) buildings permanently attached to the land or connected with water, gas, electric or sewage facilities;
(iv) lands, lots of ground and ground rents, trailer parks and parking lots;
. . . .
(viii) telecommunication towers that have become ...

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