Lifetouch National School Studio Inc. v. City of Derby
A court can find that a municipal appraiser's assumption that property is in good-to-average condition is "fundamentally flawed." The City of Derby assessed the fair market value of the plaintiff's property at $1.7 million for the Oct. 1, 2011, grand list. The 1.19-acre property has a 28,117 square foot industrial building and a finished basement with 11,544 square feet. It is located in a center design district on Main Street in Derby, near Route 8. The owner used the building to process film and placed the property on the market for $850,000 in 2011. The owner was unable to sell the property at that amount. Appraisers opined that the highest and best use of the property is light industrial use. The owner's appraiser discounted the property, because of difficulty gaining access, insufficient parking, lack of basement windows and a leaky roof. The owner's appraiser claimed that the property was in poor condition, and that the fair market value was $675,000. Apparently, the municipality's appraiser assumed that the property was in good or average condition and, based on that assumption, opined that the fair market value was $1.2. million. The court credited the opinion of the plaintiff's appraiser that the property's condition deteriorated. The structure was built in 1900, and the municipal appraiser allegedly relied on sales of buildings that were in good condition and built between 1950 and 1987. The municipality's appraiser did not adjust downward, as a result of the age or condition of comparable properties. "Some attempt should have been made," wrote the court, "to factor in the deterioration in the condition of the property." The court found that the municipal appraiser's assumptions were "fundamentally flawed" and of "little assistance." The court concluded that the fair market value of the subject property was $750,000, as of Oct. 1, 2011.