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Mau Family Limited Partnership v. Property Assessment Appeal Board

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 24, 2019

MAU FAMILY LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
PROPERTY ASSESSMENT APPEAL BOARD, Defendant-Appellee, and DICKINSON COUNTY BOARD OF REVIEW, Intervenor.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dickinson County, David A. Lester, Judge.

         A property owner appeals the district court's order affirming the board's valuation of several properties.

          David J. Stein, Jr. of Stein Law Office, Milford, for appellant.

          Jessica Braunschweig-Norris and Bradley O. Hopkins, Des Moines, for appellee.

          Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         "Arguably the best location in the Okoboji Lakes area for a restaurant and marina." The appraiser's glowing description of lakefront property at the confluence of East Lake and West Lake Okoboji contributed to Dickinson County's valuation of the property at nearly $2.2 million. The owner-Mau Family Limited Partnership (Mau)-argued its property was only worth $1.7 million. On appeal, Mau alleges the Property Assessment Appeal Board (PAAB) used faulty methods for reaching its valuation and overlooked an equity argument. Like the district court, we see no error in PAAB's process of determining the property's worth and find substantial evidence supports the higher tax valuation. Thus, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Mau owns and operates businesses on four contiguous parcels comprising 1.45 acres of commercial land with 256 feet of shoreline on East Lake Okoboji. The parcels border Highway 71 on the west, city roads on the north and east, and East Lake Okoboji on the south. They lie adjacent to a small isthmus at the junction of East Lake and West Lake Okoboji. Improvements on the land include a restaurant, a warehouse and boat storage, and a parking lot. At the time of the assessment, the restaurant was undergoing substantial renovations. An assessor for Dickinson County opined the lakefront parcels are in a prime location, arguably the best commercial location in the Iowa Great Lakes region, with high visibility and traffic along the main thoroughfare in the area.

         In 2015, the Dickinson County assessor valued the property at $2, 194, 000 and assessed taxes accordingly. Mau challenged the valuations, submitting its own appraisals valuing the property at $1.7 million.

         The following table shows the competing valuations:


County Assessor

Mau Appraiser
Parcel Number Address Land Use Land Value Building Value Total Value Contention

of Total

Value

07-20-304-001 1304 Highway 71 S Parking lot $120,500 $10,500 $131,000 $101,500
07-20-304-005 1509

Gordon

Dr.

Vacant/ garage $472,700 $2,800 $475,500 $368,400
07-20-304-006 1507

Gordon

Dr.

Marina and Warehouse $334,400 $356,800 $691,200 $535,600
07-20-304-007 1404 Highway 71 S Restaurant $772,500 $123,800 $896,300 $694,500

Totals: $1,700,100 $493,900 $2,194,000 $1,700,000

         Mau unsuccessfully challenged the assessment before the Dickinson County Board of Review and PAAB. Mau asked for rehearing, which PAAB denied. Mau then sought judicial review, where the burden is on the taxpayer as "the party asserting the invalidity of the agency action." See Wendling Quarries, Inc. v. Prop. Assessment Appeal Bd., 865 N.W.2d 635, 638 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015). The district court affirmed PAAB's ruling. Mau now appeals.

         II. Scope and Standards of Review

         We review PAAB's ruling for correction of errors at law. Iowa Code § 441.39 (2017). In reviewing the district court's decision affirming the agency, "we apply the standards of chapter 17A to determine if we reach the same conclusion as the district court." Wendling Quarries, 865 N.W.2d at 638. We are bound by PAAB's findings of fact if such findings are supported by substantial evidence. Id. Substantial evidence supports an agency's decision even if the interpretation of the evidence may be open to a fair difference of opinion. Arndt v. City of Le Claire, 728 N.W.2d 389, 393 (Iowa 2007). We do not presume the assessment is correct. Iowa Code § 441.37A(3)(a).

         III. Analysis

         Mau alleges the district court erred in four ways:[1] (1) by using PAAB's valuation that considered the highest and best use of the land rather than its actual use; (2) in affirming PAAB's use of an abnormal transaction in its valuation; (3) by affirming PAAB's rejection of Mau's appraisals because they were not valued as separate parcels; and (4) in finding PAAB's valuation was supported by substantial evidence.

         A. ...


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