GRISWOLD AIRPORT, INC. v. TOWN OF MADISON et al., SC 17938
Judicial District of New Britain
Taxation; Assessments; Termination of Open Space Classification; Whether Court Properly Determined Assessor had no Authority to Terminate Open Space Classification and Revalue Property for Condominium Development. The plaintiff owned a 42 acre parcel of land in the town of Madison on which it operated an airport. This property was classified as open space under the town's plan of development. In 2000, Leyland Development, LLC (Leyland), contracted to purchase the property, contingent upon obtaining land use approvals for the development of a planned residential community for active adults. Subsequently, the planning and zoning commission (commission) granted a zone change to allow the property's use as a planned adult community upon special exception approval. Later, the commission granted Leyland's application for a special exception permit and approved its coastal site plan. Following these approvals, on October 1, 2004, the town assessor terminated the open space designation of the property and revalued it for condominium use. This resulted in an increase in the property's assessment value, from $294,420 on the 2003 grand list to $2,222,500 on the 2004 grand list. At the time of the revaluation, Leyland's application for a wastewater discharge permit was pending. In addition, no declaration had been filed on the land records to create a common interest community pursuant to General Statutes § 47-220. Upon the plaintiff's appeal to the Superior Court pursuant to General Statutes § 12-119, the court determined that despite the existence of a special exception permit to develop a planned adult community, the assessor was without authority to terminate the open space designation under General Statutes § 12-504h, which provides for termination of open space classification without filing a new application when either "(1) [t]he use of such land is changed to a use other than that described in the application for the existing classification by said record owner or (2) such land is sold by said record owner." In reaching this conclusion, the court found that the use of the property as of October 1, 2004, was that of an active airport. It also found that because a key component of the special exception permit remained outstanding, namely, the filing of a declaration of condominium use, the approval of the permit did not authorize the assessor to revalue the property. Further, the court rejected the town's claim that the assessor was authorized to terminate the classification and revalue the property in order to equalize assessments of town property pursuant to General Statutes § 12-55. Accordingly, it sustained the plaintiff's appeal. The town now appeals, claiming that the plaintiff failed to prove, as required under § 12-119, that the assessment was both manifestly excessive and illegal. Also, the town contends, among other things, that once it granted the applications to permit the planned condominium development, it had authority under §§ 12-55 and 12-504h to revalue the properly and terminate the open space classification.