ASPETUCK VALLEY COUNTRY CLUB, INC. v. TOWN OF WESTON,
Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport
Taxation; Open Space; Whether Tax Assessor Properly Declined to Designate Plaintiff's Property as Open Space for Municipal Tax Purposes on the Ground that Board of Selectmen had not Approved an Open Space Designation. The plaintiff owns a parcel of land that has been used as a private golf course for approximately forty years. The property was designated as an area of conservation and recreation in the defendant town's development plans of 1969, 1987 and 2000. In 2004, the plaintiff submitted an application to the town's tax assessor, requesting that the property be designated as open space for municipal tax purposes. After the assessor denied the application, the plaintiff filed a tax appeal in the Superior Court. The town filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that under General Statutes § 12-107e (a), as amended by No. 79-513 of the 1979 Public Acts, the assessor was prohibited from granting the plaintiff a reduced tax rate for open space land because the purported open space designation was never approved by a majority vote of the board of selectmen. The plaintiff filed an opposition to the town's motion as well as a cross motion for summary judgment, claiming that because the town had continuously recognized the property as open space in its development plans, the assessor was required to apply the reduced tax rate. It further maintained that because the open space designation was originally given prior to the enactment of Public Act 79-513, which, the plaintiff contended, did not have retroactive effect, the board of selectmen's approval was not a condition precedent to the granting of the reduced tax rate. In granting the town's motion for summary judgment and denying the plaintiff's cross motion, the trial court stated that the town's development plans are merely advisory and that General Statutes § 12-107e (b), which governs the procedure for classifying land as open space for tax assessment purposes, requires that land designated as open space be "finally adopted." It further determined that reading §§ 12-107e (a) and (b) together leads to the conclusion that in order for a plan to be finally adopted, it must be approved by the town's legislative body by a majority vote. Accordingly, it concluded that the plaintiff's right to an open space designation for tax assessment purposes never vested because the plaintiff merely received the advisory recommendation set forth in the town's plans, as opposed to the approval of the board of selectmen. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the trial court's decision was correct.