Karen L. Kelly, Trustee, Petitioner-Appellant,
Board of County Commissioners of Summit County, Colorado, Respondent-Appellee, and Board of Assessment Appeals, Appellee.
Colorado Board of Assessment Appeals Case No. 68821
Carlock & Applewhite, F. Britton Clayton III, Denver,
Colorado, for Petitioner-Appellant
Jeffrey L. Huntley, County Attorney, Franklin Celico,
Assistant County Attorney, Breckenridge, Colorado, for
Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, Emmy A. Langey,
Assistant Solicitor General, Krista Maher, Assistant Attorney
General, Denver, Colorado, for Appellee
1 This property tax case involves two adjacent parcels of
land in Summit County, Colorado - one classified as
residential and one as vacant - with a separate trust holding
record title to each parcel. Karen L. Kelly (Ms. Kelly),
Trustee of the separate trusts each holding record title to
one parcel, sought reclassification of the vacant parcel
(subject parcel) for property tax purposes. The Board of
Assessment Appeals (BAA) denied her request, concluding that
the two differently titled parcels were not under
"common ownership" within the meaning of section
39-1-102(14.4)(a), C.R.S. 2017, which defines
"residential land" for purposes of the property tax
2 Ms. Kelly appeals the BAA's denial of her
reclassification request. Because we conclude that Ms. Kelly
presented sufficient evidence establishing common ownership
of both parcels, we reverse the BAA's order and remand
with directions for the BAA to reclassify the subject parcel
as residential land for tax years 2014 and 2015.
3 In the 1990s, Ms. Kelly purchased two adjacent parcels of
land in Summit County. She built a home on one parcel
(residential parcel) and left the subject parcel undeveloped.
4 Sometime after she purchased the two parcels, Ms. Kelly
placed them in trust. In particular, on counsel's advice,
she put the residential parcel in the Karen L. Kelly 2011
Irrevocable Trust, a qualified personal residence trust. And
she put the subject parcel in the Karen L. Kelly 1990
Declaration of Trust, a revocable family trust. Ms. Kelly was
the settlor, trustee, and beneficiary of both trusts.
5 For tax purposes, the Summit County Assessor classified the
residential parcel as residential land. But the Assessor
classified the subject parcel as vacant land, which is taxed
at a higher rate.
6 In 2016, Ms. Kelly appealed the subject parcel's
classification to the Summit County Board of County
Commissioners (County). She requested that the subject parcel
be reclassified as residential land under section
39-1-102(14.4)(a) and sought a tax abatement for the tax
years 2014 and 2015. The County denied the petition.
7 Ms. Kelly then appealed the County's decision to the
BAA, again requesting to have the subject parcel reclassified
as residential land and seeking the associated tax abatement.
At the evidentiary hearing, Ms. Kelly and the County
presented evidence on the ownership of the parcels.
8 After the hearing, the BAA affirmed the County's
classification of the subject parcel as vacant land,
determining that the subject parcel and residential parcel
were owned by two separate trusts and "[e]ach trust
[was] a separate and distinct legal entity." It thus
concluded that the parcels were not commonly owned and
therefore the subject parcel did not qualify as residential
land under section 39-1-102(14.4)(a).
9 Ms. Kelly contends that the BAA erred in concluding that
the subject parcel was not residential land. More precisely,
she argues that the BAA "misconstrued the 'common
ownership' element of section" 39-1-102(14.4)(a). We
Standard of Review and Applicable Law
10 The determination of the appropriate land classification
for property tax purposes is a mixed question of law and
fact. HomeDepot USA, Inc. v. Pueblo Cty. Bd. of
Comm'rs, 50 P.3d 916, 920 (Colo.App. 2002). While we
consider the BAA's determination to the extent it's
consistent with the relevant statutory provisions, the
interpretation of the tax statutes is a question of law ...