Friday, February 14, 2014

Board Finds Land on Which Cell Tower Constructed not Agricultural Land

Excerpts of the Board's Determination follow:

According to Indiana Code § 6-1.1-4-13(a), “land shall be assessed as agricultural land only when it is devoted to agricultural use.” Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-13(a). “Those portions of agricultural parcels that include land and buildings not used agriculturally, such as homes, homesites, and excess land and commercial or industrial land and buildings, shall be adjusted by the factor or factors developed for other similar property within the geographical stratification.” 50 IAC 27-6-1.

d. In this case, the Petitioner argues that the land is and always has been agricultural land. According to the Petitioner, the lease payments for the ground are no different than a crop lease and, if the cell tower were removed, the land would revert to agricultural use. There is no dispute that the property at issue has a communications tower on it. Thus, the land on which the cell tower sits is not currently used as agricultural land and cannot be assessed as agricultural land. See Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-13(a). Instead, the cell tower land is used for commercial gain and should be assessed accordingly. See 50 IAC 27-6-1.

e. The Petitioner attempted to calculate a value based on the income approach, but failed to show that his evidence of market value-in-use conformed to generally accepted appraisal practices. More specifically, the Petitioner’s opinion that only 10% of the lease is attributable to the land is unsupported. Furthermore, even though the Petitioner used the 5% capitalization rate that he claimed the Respondent used, neither party presented evidence to support the use of that rate. Statements that are unsupported by probative evidence are conclusory and of little value to the Board in making its determination. See Whitley Products, Inc. v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 704 N.E. 2d 1113, 1119 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1998).

f. Thus, the Board concludes that the Petitioner failed to make a prima facie case that the assessment was incorrect. Where the Petitioner has not supported his claim with probative evidence, the Respondent’s duty to support the assessment with substantial evidence is not triggered. Lacy Diversified Indus. LTD v. Dep’t of Local Gov’t Fin., 799 N.E. 2d 1215, 1221-1222 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2003.)