2008 – Craig Wm. Black v. Municipality of Anchorage, Board of Equalization

Craig Wm. Black v. Municipality of Anchorage, Board of Equalization, 187
P.3d 1096 (July 18, 2008
Black, an owner of a condominium unit in a community consisting of
single-family homes on large parcels of land appealed the Municipality of
Anchorage’s assessment of property taxes. The two arguments he presented
in the appeal to the Superior Court were: first, that the land should not have
been assessed to his condominium unit and second, that his condominium
unit had been overvalued.
Review of various condominium documents, including a sufficiently legible
plat allocating .92 of an acre as Limited Common Interest Lot Area to
Black’s unit, convinces the Supreme Court that the land in question is a
limited common element. As such, it is taxed as part of the unit per AS
34.08.720 (b) (1) which provides that each unit, together with its interest in
the common elements, is a taxable parcel.

Black then moves to constitutional issues of alleged violation of equal
protection and due process rights. Allocating value between land and
building in this condominium project while placing all the value in the
building on most condominium projects does not violate equal protection
because the distinction is justified due to the difference caused by the
related land being at least thirteen times larger.

The due process argument relates to the 2004 assessment putting all the
value on the building and no value on the land, and Black arguing that this
establishes a precedent that the land value should not be taxed. The Court
finds that the change was to attempt to make condominium assessments
more uniform by putting all the value into the building. It was not a
precedent, and even if so, could have been changed for a reasonable and
supportable reason. No due process violation.

The striking fact in relation to the valuation argument is that the 2005
valuation Black was fighting of $458,600 is only 5.4 percent more than the
$435,000 Black paid for the property in 2002. Expert testimony indicated a
higher rate in general for single family homes in that time. The valuation of
the Board is upheld.

The Superior Court awarded the Municipality fifty percent of its attorneys
fees in the amount of $4,510.75. Black complained that this was
considerably more than usually awarded to the prevailing party in an appeal.
After pointing out that the case Black relied on awarded 86% of actual
attorneys fees, 50% is approved and the superior court judge is excused for
not providing the normally required explanation of the award.

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