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Lesage v. Town of Colchester

Supreme Court of Vermont

July 5, 2013

Stephanie Lesage, Mary E. McNeil and Richard Mostrom, Colin McNeil, Daniel and Claudia McNeil
v.
Town of Colchester Mary Jane Marchelewicz
v.
Town of Colchester In re Colchester Leased Lands

On Appeal from Town of Colchester Property Valuation & Review Division

Merle R. Van Gieson, State Appraiser (2012-196 & 2012-300) Geoffrey W. Crawford, J. (2012-392), Ian M. DeGalan and Brian P. Monaghan of Monaghan Safar Dwight PLLC, Burlington, for Appellant Town of Colchester. (2012-196)

Peter and Stephanie Lesage, Pro Se, Colchester, Appellees.

Joseph E. McNeil, Colin K. McNeil and Kevin J. Coyle of McNeil, Leddy & Sheahan, Burlington, for Appellees McNeil/Mostrom, Colin McNeil, Daniel and Claudia McNeil.

James W. Barlow, Vermont League of Cities and Towns, Montpelier, for Amicus Curiae, Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

Mark L. Sperry of Michele B. Patton of Langrock Sperry & Wool, LLP, Burlington, for Amicus Curiae Coates Island, LLC.

Brian P. Monaghan and Nicholas T. Stanton of Monaghan Safar Dwight PLLC, Burlington, for Appellant Town of Colchester. (2012-300 & 2012-392)

Liam L Murphy and Damien J. Leonard of Murphy Sullivan Kronk, Burlington, for Appellees Colchester Leased Lands.

William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, and Mary L. Bachman, Assistant Attorney General, Montpelier, for Amicus Curiae Department of Taxes.

PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Skoglund and Burgess, JJ., and Bent and Gerety, Supr. JJ., Specially Assigned

SKOGLUND, J

¶ 1.The common legal issue in these consolidated cases is whether Vermont law allows the Town of Colchester to consider location-related “intangible” factors in assessing seasonal lakefront camps situated on leased land. We conclude that the Town is not precluded from considering such factors in assessing the subject properties. Accordingly, we reverse the decisions of the superior court and state appraiser reaching the opposite conclusion, and we remand the cases for further consideration consistent with our opinion set forth below.

¶ 2. There are two decisions for our review, one by the superior court and one by a state appraiser from the Vermont Division of Property Valuation and Review. As noted, both decisions addressed the Town’s authority to factor in intangible factors related to location in assessing lakefront camps situated on leased land. In each of the cases before us, taxpayers own camp buildings on land owned by others who are not parties to these proceedings.

ΒΆ 3. The seed for the instant dispute was planted in 2008 when the Division informed the Town that both its common level of appraisal, which measures assessment equity across towns, and its coefficient of dispersion, which measures assessment equity within a town, were outside acceptable state parameters, thereby requiring a town-wide reappraisal. The Town completed its reappraisal in 2011. Among the town properties ...


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