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Hogan v. Board of County Commissioners of Summit County

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Fifth Division

June 14, 2018

Marc Hogan and Marilyn Hogan, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Board of County Commissioners of Summit County, Colorado; and Board of Assessment Appeals, Defendants-Appellees.

          Board of Assessment Appeals Case No. 68822

          Announced June 14, 2018 Ryley Carlock & Applewhite, F. Brittin Clayton III, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiffs-Appellants

          Jeffrey Huntley, County Attorney, Franklin Celico, Assistant County Attorney, Breckenridge, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellee Board of County Commissioners

          Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, Evan P. Brennan, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellee Board of Assessment Appeals

          ORDER REVERSED AND CASE REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS

          CASEBOLT [*] JUDGE

          ¶ 1 Petitioners, Marc Hogan and Marilyn Hogan (the Hogans), appeal the order of the Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA) denying their request to reclassify a parcel of their land as residential for property tax purposes. We reverse the BAA's order and remand the case for further proceedings.

         I. Background

         ¶ 2 The Hogans own three connected and contiguous parcels of land in Summit County, Colorado. They purchased the first parcel (Lot 1) in 1983 and built a home on it. They purchased an adjoining parcel (Lot 2) in 1988 and subsequently built a deck extending from their home across the boundary line onto Lot 2. In 1995, the Hogans acquired a third adjoining parcel (Lot 3). Lot 3 is located in a subdivision and has an underground sewer line and an unpaved driveway installed by the original developer of the subdivision, but otherwise remains undeveloped. The three parcels form an "L" shape, with the Hogans' home on Lot 1 at the top and Lot 3 at the bottom.

         ¶ 3 The Summit County Assessor classified both Lot 2 and Lot 3 as vacant land. The Hogans requested the two parcels be reclassified as residential land. The County Assessor agreed that Lot 2 qualified as residential land but denied the request to reclassify Lot 3 as residential, determining it to be vacant land for purposes of taxation.

         ¶ 4 The Hogans appealed the County Assessor's decision to the Board of County Commissioners of Summit County (County), which upheld the County Assessor's classification. The Hogans appealed that determination to the BAA. After a de novo hearing, the BAA upheld the County's classification of Lot 3 as vacant land, relying primarily on the testimony of the County Assessor.

         ¶ 5 This appeal followed.

         II. Discussion

         ¶ 6 The Hogans challenge the BAA's order regarding Lot 3. They contend that all three parcels qualify for residential classification under section 39-1-102(14.4)(a), C.R.S. 2017, which states:

"Residential land" means a parcel or contiguous parcels of land under common ownership upon which residential improvements are located and that is used as a unit in conjunction with the residential improvements located thereon.

         ¶ 7 The Hogans assert that the BAA erred in determining that Lot 3 was not "used as a unit in conjunction with the residential improvements." We conclude that the BAA based its ruling on an erroneous interpretation of "residential land." Consequently, we reverse the BAA's order and remand the case for redetermination under the proper interpretation of "residential land."

         A. Standard of Review

         ¶ 8 Because the BAA's property classification involves mixed questions of law and fact, we will uphold it on appeal if it (1) has a reasonable basis in law and (2) is supported by substantial evidence in the record. O'Neil v. Conejos Cty. Bd. of Comm'rs, 2017 COA 30, ¶ 11.

         ¶ 9 We consult and defer to the implementing agency's determinations, including those of the Property Tax Administrator (PTA) and the BAA, if they accord with statutory provisions. Boulder Cty. Bd. of Comm'rs v. HealthSouth Corp., 246 P.3d 948, 951 (Colo. 2011).

         ¶ 10 Although we take into account the agency's determination, interpretation of statutes is a question of law that we review de novo. Id. Thus, "[w]hile we give deference to an administrative agency's interpretation of a statute, we are not bound by a decision that misapplies or misconstrues the law." Fifield v. Pitkin Cty. Bd. of Comm'rs, 2012 COA 197, ¶ 6 (quoting Jet Black, LLC v. Routt Cty. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs, 165 P.3d 744, 748 (Colo.App. 2006)). Moreover, a reviewing court may set aside a BAA decision if it "reflects a failure to abide by the statutory scheme for calculating property tax assessments." Id. (quoting Bd. of Assessment Appeals v. E.E. Sonnenberg & Sons, Inc., 797 P.2d 27, 34 (Colo. 1990)).

         ¶ 11 When interpreting a statute, "[o]ur primary objective is to effectuate the intent of the General Assembly by looking to the plain meaning of the language used, considered within the context of the statute as a whole." Id. at ...


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