Sayers v. City of Danbury
Property that previously was used as a nursery and currently is used to mix topsoil may not qualify for a tax exemption for farm land, even though the property owners continue to hold a nursery license. Prior to 1985, the plaintiffs' 2.5-acres of property on two adjacent lots were used as a nursery business. Currently, the plaintiffs operate a business, Danbury Topsoil, which receives soils, mixes the soils and delivers the soils to customers. In November 2008, although the plaintiffs held a nursery license the municipal assessor for the City of Danbury denied the plaintiffs' request for a farmland exemption, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §12-107c. The city's board of assessment appeals affirmed. The plaintiffs appealed to the Superior Court and cited the 1970 Connecticut Supreme Court decision in Johnson v. Board of Tax Review, in which a court found that a nursery qualified for an exemption. C.G.S. §12-107c provides, "In determining whether such land is farm land, such assessor shall take into account, among other things, the acreage of such land, the portion thereof in actual use for farming or agriculture operations, the productivity of such land, the gross income derived therefrom, the nature and value of the equipment used in connection therewith, and the extent to which the tracts composing such land are contiguous." The Superior Court found that the plaintiffs are in the business of mixing soils that are brought to their properties. This business use does not further the legislative policy in C.G.S. §12-107c to exempt property from taxation, to preserve farm land. "The mere holding of a nursery license is not controlling," wrote the court. "While the plaintiffs' properties do not produce anything, in contrast the nursery in Johnson grew plants, [trees,] bushes and shrubs." It would conflict with the statutory scheme to continue to classify the property as farm land when it no longer qualifies as farm land. The court denied the plaintiffs' appeals.