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Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon of Ohio, Inc. v. Franklin County Board of Revision

Supreme Court of Ohio

April 26, 2018

Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon of Ohio, Inc., Appellant,
v.
Franklin County Board of Revision et al., Appellees.

          Submitted January 23, 2018

          Appeal from the Board of Tax Appeals, No. 2015-423.

          The Gibbs Firm, L.P.A., Ryan J. Gibbs, and Geoffrey N. Byrne, for appellant.

          Rich & Gillis Law Group, L.L.C., Mark H. Gillis, and Karol C. Fox, for appellee Board of Education of the South-Western City School District.

          Per Curiam.

         {¶ 1} In this real-property-valuation case involving tax year 2012, appellant, Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon of Ohio, Inc. ("Lone Star"), sought a reduction in the valuation of a property it once owned based on the property's sale price. Appellee Franklin County Board of Revision ("the BOR") rejected the sale price as the criterion of value and instead retained the county auditor's valuation. On appeal, the Board of Tax Appeals ("BTA") adopted the BOR's valuation, finding that the sale was too remote in relation to the tax-lien date. We conclude that the BTA misapplied our precedent in determining that the sale was too remote. We accordingly reverse the BTA's decision and remand the case with instructions that the BTA use the sale price to value the property for tax year 2012.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         {¶ 2} The subject property consists of a 5, 344-square-foot restaurant located on a 1.71-acre parcel. For tax year 2012, the Franklin County auditor valued the property at $1, 250, 000. Lone Star filed a complaint seeking a reduction of this valuation to $750, 000, and appellee Board of Education of the SouthWestern City School District ("the BOE") responded with a countercomplaint urging retention of the auditor's valuation.

         BOR proceedings

         {¶ 3} At the BOR hearing, Lone Star's counsel presented three documents in support of the complaint. First, he presented a warranty deed memorializing a transfer of the property from Lone Star to J.M. Mendez, Inc. The deed's effective date is listed as December 31, 2013, but stamps marked on the deed by the auditor's and recorder's offices are dated January 21, 2014. Second, he presented a conveyance-fee statement listing the consideration as $700, 000. The statement was signed on behalf of J.M. Mendez, Inc., on December 31, 2013, but it bears an auditor's stamp of January 21, 2014. Third, he presented an escrow-trust-disbursement statement showing a purchase price of $700, 000 and a disbursement date of December 31, 2013. After furnishing these three documents, Lone Star's counsel insisted that the property should be valued based on the sale price of $700, 000. Lone Star's counsel did not call any witnesses to testify on its behalf.

         {¶ 4} In response to questioning from the BOE, Lone Star's counsel stated that he did not represent Lone Star during the sale of the property and did not have personal knowledge about how the property had been marketed or sold. The BOE then argued that the BOR should not rely on the sale price, because no one with personal knowledge about the sale had appeared to testify.

         {¶ 5} The BOR retained the county auditor's valuation of $1, 250, 000. The BOR remarked during its deliberations that Lone Star's evidence did not justify a reduction, because no witness had appeared to testify about the sale.

         BTA proceedings

         {¶ 6} Lone Star appealed to the BTA but waived its appearance at the hearing. The BOE appeared but did not present evidence; instead, it argued that the BTA should disregard Lone Star's evidence because no one with personal knowledge of the sale had appeared before the BOR to testify. The BOE also asserted that ...


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