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In re Bilmar Team Cleaners

Supreme Court of Vermont

January 16, 2015

In re Bilmar Team Cleaners (Margaret Murray, Appellant)

Page 484

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 485

Editorial Note:

This Opinion is subject to motion for reargument or formal revision before publication. See V.R.A.P. 40

On Appeal from Superior Court, Chittenden Unit, Civil Division. Geoffrey W. Crawford, J.

Margaret Murray, Pro Se, Montpelier, Plaintiff-Appellant.

Eugene M. Bergman and Eileen M. Blackwood, Burlington, for Defendant-Appellee City of Burlington.

Present: Reiber, C.J., Dooley, Skoglund and Robinson, JJ., and Zonay, Supr. J., Specially Assigned.

OPINION

Page 486

Reiber, C.J.

[¶1] Taxpayer appeals the superior court, civil division's decision to uphold the Burlington Board of Tax Appeals' appraisal of 150 Shelburne Road in Burlington at a value of $193,500. Taxpayer contends tat (1) she presented sufficient evidence that the property was not assessed at fair market value to overcome the city appraisal's presumption of validity, and (2) the City of Burlington failed to meet its burden of proof demonstrating the property was assessed at fair market value. We affirm the superior court for the following reasons.

[¶2] The property at issue was a gas filling station from the 1940s until the 1970s, when a fire caused the station's removal. Taxpayer and her business partner purchased the lot in 1987 to use for their business, Bilmar Team Cleaners. In 1993, petroleum was discovered to be contaminating the property's groundwater, likely due to leaky underground storage tanks from when the property was a gas station. Since the discovery, taxpayer has spent over $20,000 on engineering studies and installed several wells to monitor the contamination. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), tasked with measuring and tracking petroleum pollution for the state, has requested an additional $10,000 of monitoring on taxpayer's property before it will issue a " Site Management Activities Completed" designation for the property and remediation efforts will come to a close. The property remains listed as an unremediated petroleum pollution site due to taxpayer's inability or unwillingness to pay for this additional monitoring or obtain funding from the Vermont Petroleum Cleanup Fund (PCF). Taxpayer believes the petroleum contamination renders her property valueless, and has not paid city real estate tax on the property for many years.

[¶3] The PCF provides up to $990,000 in remediation costs once a property owner has paid the initial $10,000. Generally, petroleum pollution is measured and tracked until DEC is convinced that all reasonable efforts were made to address the problem. The PCF would likely cover taxpayer's cost of remediation because the property's pollution levels have decreased over the years. It is possible that taxpayer's expenditures to date would satisfy the $10,000 initial cost. Taxpayer does not believe participating in the PCF is in her best interest. She also believes the PCF benefits only those with political connections. Taxpayer also fears that ...


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