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Miller v. Property Assessment Appeal Board

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 7, 2019

CHAD MILLER, Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
v.
PROPERTY ASSESSMENT APPEAL BOARD, Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellant, And SCOTT COUNTY BOARD OF REVIEW, Intervenor.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Mark R. Lawson, Judge.

         Plaintiff appeals the district court decision affirming the Property Assessment Appeal Board's (PAAB) determination his property should be classified as residential, and the PAAB cross-appeals the court's remand on the issue of an inequitable assessment.

          Stephen P. Wing of Dwyer & Wing, P.C., Davenport, for appellant/cross-appellee.

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

          Robert L. Cusack, Assistant County Attorney, for intervenor.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Doyle, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         Chad Miller appeals the district court decision affirming the ruling of the Iowa Property Assessment Appeal Board (PAAB) that his property should be classified as residential rather than agricultural. The PAAB cross-appeals the court's determination the issue of inequitable assessment of Miller's property should be remanded to the PAAB. We affirm the district court and the PAAB on the issue of the classification of Miller's property as agricultural. We reverse the district court's decision on the issue of inequitable assessment. We remand for an order affirming the PAAB's decision on inequitable assessment.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         Miller owns 10.22 acres of land in Scott County, which he purchased in 2008. About two acres of the property is considered the homestead and contains improvements, including a two-story house with a porch, deck, patio, and garage. About five acres is a slough, with streams and forest. Miller has 3.6 acres of cropland. The cropland is in a 100-year flood plain. In 2009 to 2011, he grew hay. In 2012 and 2013, he grew corn. He did not have any crops in 2014 due to weather conditions. In 2015, he had corn and pumpkins.

         Miller lost money most years from his crops. He lost $5064 in 2012; $14, 335 in 2013; and $4324 in 2014, but he earned $338 in 2015. He had a total negative net cash flow of $23, 385 over the four-year period from 2012 to 2015. When questioned, Miller was unable to explain how he intended to make his crop production profitable. He sold some of his crops, gave some away, and used the rest to feed his family. The property is zoned agricultural.

         For taxation purposes, Miller's property is classified as residential. He challenged the classification in 2013. The Scott County Board of Review (Board) denied his claim. He appealed to the PAAB, which found, "Because of the short-period of agricultural use prior to the assessment date and the other uses made of the property, we find Miller has not demonstrated that the property's primary use as of January 1, 2013, was agricultural."

         Miller challenged the residential classification of his property again in 2015. He also claimed the property was inequitably assessed to be worth $873, 220. The Board denied his petition, and he appealed to the PAAB. On the issue of classification, the PAAB found:

Turning to intended profit, we do not deny that Miller is engaged in growing produce and he has spent considerable time, money, and energy to develop a portion of the site for farming. However, Miller testified that he was unable to determine what his profit may be in the future and that the crop he does produce is primarily for personal use, bartered, or given away. Miller's ambiguity about potential future ...

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