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Lockhart Development Co. v. Summit Co. Board of Revision

September 30, 2011

LOCKHART DEVELOPMENT CO. APPELLEE
v.
SUMMIT CO. BOARD OF REVISION, ET AL. APPELLEES AND STOW-MUNROE FALLS CITY SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION APPELLANT



APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CV 2009-12-8700

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dickinson, Judge.

Cite as

Lockhart Dev. Co. v. Summit Cty. Bd. of Revision,

ss:

DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

INTRODUCTION

{¶1} After the Summit County Board of Revision denied Lockhart Development Company a reduction in the taxable valuation of its property, Lockhart appealed to the Summit County Common Pleas Court. The common pleas court heard the matter on the record from the board of revision, which included no evidence supporting the county's valuation of $4,134,000. The common pleas court reversed the decision of the board of revision and entered judgment in favor of Lockhart, reducing the valuation of the property to $2,700,000. The Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools Board of Education has appealed the common pleas court's decision. This Court affirms because, under these circumstances, the common pleas court's application of a deferential standard of review was harmless error and the common pleas court properly reversed the decision of the board of revision that was unsupported by any evidence in the record. BACKGROUND

{¶2} As owner of Roses Run Country Club in Stow, Lockhart sought a reduction in the valuation of its 13 parcels of real property for tax year 2008. The Summit County Auditor had appraised the land and improvements at a total true value of $4,134,000.

{¶3} At a hearing before the board of revision, Lockhart presented an owner's opinion of the value of the property via the testimony of Bob Lockhart, a co-owner of Lockhart Development Company. Mr. Lockhart testified that, in his opinion, the value of the property was $2,700,000. He based his opinion on a recent unsuccessful attempt to sell the property for $3,000,000 and on an appraisal by John Emig, a certified real estate appraiser. Lockhart also presented testimony and documentary evidence of the appraisal by Mr. Emig. According to Mr. Emig, the property's true value in 2008 was $2,700,000. Both Mr. Lockhart and Mr. Emig testified that the City's limitations on the use of the property significantly decreased its value.

{¶4} The Board of Education did not present any evidence at the hearing. In a two-to- one decision, the board of revision voted to make no change in the true value of the property. Lockhart appealed the board's decision to the Summit County Common Pleas Court. The common pleas court tried the matter on the record from the board of revision without taking additional evidence. The court determined that Lockhart's evidence in support of a reduction in the value of the property was "credible." The common pleas court reversed the decision of the board of revision because "the agency decision is not supported by reliable, probative, and substantial evidence [and] [t]here is a complete absence of the requisite quantum of evidence to support the decision of the Board of Revision." The trial court determined that the value of the property is $2,700,000 "[b]ased on the credible, unrefuted evidence in the record[.]" APPEAL FROM THE BOARD OF REVISION

{¶5} Ohio law provides two options for appealing decisions of a county board of revision: to the Board of Tax Appeals or to the county's common pleas court. R.C. 5717.01; R.C. 5717.05. "Thus, the common pleas court and the [Board of Tax Appeals] fulfill the same function when reviewing a decision of a board of revision, and [Board of Tax Appeals] case law may be applied to the common pleas court proceedings in such appeals." Murray & Co. Marina Inc. v. Erie County Bd. of Revision, 123 Ohio App. 3d 166, 172 (1997) (citing Mazzola v. Summit County Bd. of Revision, 9th Dist. No. 16254, 1993 WL 539587 (Dec. 22, 1993); Banbury Village Inc. v. Cuyahoga County Bd. of Revision, 8th Dist. No. 59980, 1992 WL 67633 (Apr. 2, 1992)).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

{¶6} The Board of Education's first assignment of error is that the trial court applied the wrong standard of review to the board of revision's decision establishing the value of the property in this case. Specifically, the Board of Education has argued that the trial court followed Section 2506.04 of the Ohio Revised Code rather than Section 5717.05. Section 2506.04 relates to the duty of a common pleas court in reviewing the decision of "any officer, tribunal, authority, board, bureau, commission, department, or other division of any political subdivision of the state[.]" R.C. 2506.01(A); R.C. 2506.04. Section 5717.05 is more limited, addressing only the duties of a court of common pleas when an appeal is taken to it from a county board of revision. Although Section 5717.05 applies to this matter, the common pleas court seems to have followed the more general administrative appeals procedure found in Chapter 2506.

{ΒΆ7} Under Section 2506.04, a common pleas court reviewing an administrative decision may reverse if the decision is "unsupported ...


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