Kronenberger v. Town of Haddam
A property owner who builds a residence on forest land may convert the property to a residential use and lose part of the tax exemption that exists for forest land. In 2008, the plaintiff, Michael Kronenberger, bought 47 acres of property in the Town of Haddam, and the municipal assessor granted an exemption for forest land, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §12-107d. In 2009, Kronenberger added a tool shed for his chain saw and other work tools. A neighbor complained, and in 2010 the municipal assessor decided that the tool shed qualified as a "cabin" or "residence," and he removed the exemption for forest land for two acres. The plaintiff appealed. The parties disputed whether the 12 by 12 foot shed, which has a door and a window but no running water, electricity or septic system, qualified as a "residence." The municipal zoning regulations do not define "residence." The municipal regulations define "dwelling unit" as "[o]ne or more rooms arranged for the use of one family living together as a single habitable unit, with cooking, living, sanitary and sleeping facilities." The court found that the assessor wrongly concluded that the shed qualified as a "residence," and it granted judgment to the plaintiff property owner. The plaintiff established that the assessor lacked the authority to declassify two acres of the property as forest land and to increase the plaintiff's tax assessment.