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Indiana Tax Court Holds that Environmental Contamination Does Not Always Justify a Reduction in Assessed Value

10.11.2018

Garrett LLC v. Noble County Assessor, 49T10-1712-TA-00022 (Ind. Tax Ct. Sept. 24, 2018), opinion corrected Oct. 1, 2018

Taxpayer owned a contaminated former foundry facility purchased for $1.00 and entered into a Voluntary Remediation Program agreement. Shortly thereafter, Taxpayer sold a portion of the property to a school corporation, using the proceeds for demolition on the property and for cleanup costs. As of 2015, the Assessor valued the property at $200,000 and the taxpayer appealed. Before the Indiana Board, the Taxpayer claimed, inter alia, that the land had a $0 value due to the contamination. The Indiana Board concluded that the Taxpayer had provided undisputed evidence for reducing the 2016 assessment by demonstrating that no buildings existed on the property as of that assessment date, but that the Taxpayer’s evidence was not probative of the property’s 2016 market value-in-use. Thus, the Indiana Board left the land valuation unchanged.

Upon review, the Tax Court noted that evidence of property contamination does not, by itself, necessitate a finding that property lacks value. Evidence must be submitted to quantify the impact of the contamination upon value, and the Court found that no such evidence had been provided in this case.  In fact, the Court found that the sale of a portion of the land to a school corporation established that the land had some value. The Taxpayer also had provided information concerning several sales of property, apparently intending to make a comparable sales argument, but the Court found that the Taxpayer failed to make a cogent argument on this point.  The Indiana Board’s final determination was affirmed.

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