Tax Assessment Remanded for Findings

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A panel of the Commonwealth Court reversed and remanded for further findings several assessments determined by a trial court. In re appeal of Harley-Davidson Motor Company, No. 159 C.D. 2013 (Pa Commw. Oct. 30, 2013). The property was approximately 229 acres formerly used for the manufacture of munitions and certain other industrial activities. The property had significant continuing environmental problems. The Commonwealth Court reversed for several reasons. The trial court did not correctly apply the applicable section of the assessment law regarding the common level ratio to be applied in tax appeals. The trial court approved a percentage discount to what would otherwise be the value of the real estate based on what the panel categorized essentially a guess on the part of the appraiser as to the impact of the environmental problems on market value. The appraiser improperly valued the property based on judgments about whether the property could be subdivided and what it could be converted into. Citing prior cases, the panel held that the property must be valued as is, not with respect to a conjectural value after subdivision and improvement. A dissent would have affirmed on the grounds that it was within the purview of the trial court to make judgments on the appraiser’s treatment of the environmental and future use issues.