INDIANA TAX COURT
GOODHOST, LLC, )
v. ) Cause No. 49T10-9810-TA-131
DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL )
GOVERNMENT FINANCE, )
ORDER ON MOTION TO CORRECT ERRORS
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
September 2, 2003
Comes now Goodhost, LLC (Goodhost) and files a Motion to Correct Errors (Motion)
pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 59. In its Motion, Goodhost challenges this
Courts holding in Goodhost, LLC v. Department of Local Government Finance, 786 N.E.2d
813 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2003). Having reviewed Goodhosts Motion and having held
a hearing thereon, the Court now DENIES Goodhosts Motion for the reasons set
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Goodhost owns approximately ten acres of land and the American Inn located near
the intersection of 82nd Street and I-69 in Lawrence Township, Marion County, Indiana.
Goodhost rents a portion of its motel units as low-income apartment housing.
For the 1995 general reassessment, the State Board of Tax Commissioners (State
Board) classified Goodhosts land as hotel/motel land. As a result, the land
was valued at $2.50 per square foot pursuant to the relevant portion of
the Marion County Land Order (Land Order).
Goodhost filed an original tax appeal with this Court on October 23, 1998,
arguing that its land should have been valued as apartment land with a
value of approximately $40,000 per acre. (Petr Compl. at 3.) After
conducting trial and oral argument, this Court issued an opinion in which it
affirmed the State Board. Goodhost, 786 N.E.2d at 816.
On May 16, 2003, Goodhost timely filed a Motion to Correct Errors.
The Court held a hearing on Goodhosts Motion on August 1, 2003.
Additional facts will be provided as necessary.
ANALYSIS & ORDER
In its Motion, Goodhost argues that the Courts decision was erroneous because it
misconstrued the substantive issue, it ignored the extensive evidence presented by Goodhost, and
it failed to address the due process issue originally raised by Goodhost.
(Petr Mot. to Correct Error at 1, 2.) Each of these alleged
errors are addressed in turn.
I. Goodhosts Substantive Issue
In Goodhost, this Court determined that the sole issue presented for review was
whether the State Board correctly assessed Goodhosts land under the Land Order.
Because Goodhost did not submit a copy of the Land Order into evidence,
the Court determined that it was unable to reach the merits of Goodhosts
claim (i.e., Goodhost failed to make a prima facie case). Goodhost, 786
N.E.2d at 815.
Goodhost now argues in its Motion that [t]he issue before the Court was
not interpretation of the language of the Land Order, but rather  the
grossly disparate treatment of [Goodhosts] property when compared to other similar properties.
(Petr Mot. to Correct Error at 2 (emphasis in original).) Consequently, Goodhost
asserts that the introduction of the Land Order into evidence was not necessary
for the Court in its disposition of the case. The Court disagrees.
Goodhost contests the valuation of its land. The value of its land
resulted from a hotel/motel land classification rather than an apartment land classification.
Such a classification, however, is not inherent to the assessment of land throughout
the State. Rather, it arises from the application of the relevant land
During oral argument, this Court sought numerous clarifications from Goodhost regarding
the issue on review:
Mr. Terrell: A couple of points that I want to clarify, if
First of all, so there is no confusion, the issue here is land
value. . . .
The Court: Is this the application of the land order that were
Mr. Terrell: Yes, your Honor.
(Oral Argument Tr. at 29 (emphasis added).) Again, later in the proceeding:
Mr. Terrell: We understand that theres been repeated statements that this doesnt
look like an apartment . . .
The Court: Well, I am confused.
Mr. Terrell: Yes.
The Court: Were not talking about the assessment of the improvements; were
talking about the assessment of the land; is that correct?
Mr. Terrell: Yes, your Honor.
The Court: So we are not concerned --- Is the land value
order, is that in evidence?
Mr. Terrell: The actual order?
The Court: Uh-huh.
Mr. Terrell: I dont believe that the order is in evidence, is
Mr. Beatty: No, I dont recall.
Mr. Terrell: I dont believe so. . . .
The Court: But were not worried in this case about the application
of the GCM base [improvement] prices on this property. All were concerned
about is the application of . . . the land order ---
Mr. Terrell: Yes, your Honor.
(Oral Argument Tr. at 31-32 (emphasis added).)
As this Court has held numerous times, when a taxpayer seeks to challenge
the value assigned to its land, it must present probative evidence showing that
either (1) its land was improperly assessed under the wrong section of the
land order or (2) comparable properties were assessed and taxed differently than its
own under the land order. Goodhost, 786 N.E.2d at 815 (citing Park
Steckley I v. Dept of Local Govt Fin., 779 N.E.2d 1270, 1273 (Ind.
Tax Ct. 2002); Blackbird Farms Apartments, LP v. Dept of Local Govt Fin.,
765 N.E.2d 711, 714 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2002)) (emphases added). Thus, in
appeals involving land valuation, land orders are necessarily implicated. Consequently,
it is essential for the Court to have an opportunity to read and
analyze the relevant portions of the applicable land order. In particular, the
Court must be able to evaluate the application of the land order to
the taxpayers property or comparable properties or both so that it
may determine if a remedy is warranted and, if so, its nature and
Id. Goodhosts Evidence
In this case, Goodhost claims that introducing the Land Order into evidence elevates
form over substance and clutter[s] the Record . . . with useless information
at a great waste of time and expense. Indeed, it argues that
the Land Order itself provided absolutely no useful information with regard to the
issues on this appeal. The issue is not the content of the
Land Order, but rather the disparate treatment of similar properties. (Petr Mot.
to Correct Error at 3.)
What Goodhost does not understand is that when it claims that similar properties
are being treated dissimilarly, it must show that within the context of the
Land Order. Goodhost, 786 N.E.2d at 815 (citing Park Steckley, 779 N.E.2d
at 1273; Blackbird, 765 N.E.2d at 714) (emphasis added). Thus, in order
to make a prima facie case,
Goodhost needed to show that similar properties
(i.e., properties subject to the same portion of the Land Order) were being
treated dissimilarly (i.e., the Land Order was not applied uniformly to those similar
properties). This simply cannot be achieved without the Land Order.
During the administrative hearing, Goodhost submitted evidence showing that the land at three
nearby properties (one nursing home and two apartment complexes) were assessed as apartment
land and assigned values between $19,000 and $22,000 per acre. Goodhost also
submitted evidence that another apartment complex, located in a different township, was classified
as apartment land despite the fact that it rented some of its units
on a nightly or weekly basis.
Goodhost claims that this evidence clearly
supports its claim that its land was improperly valued and that this Court
committed an uncorrected error of law by erroneously ignoring [that] extensive evidence[.]
(Petr Mot. to Correct Error at 2.) Again, this Court must disagree.
This Courts standard of review has been stated many times: it gives
great deference to the State Board and its final determinations. Wetzel Enters.,
v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 694 N.E.2d 1259, 1261 (Ind. Tax Ct.
1998). Thus, when it reviews the claim of a taxpayer (like Goodhost)
that the State Boards final determination is invalid, it will not reweigh the
evidence presented at the administrative level. See State Bd. of Tax Comm'rs
v. Gatling Gun Club, 420 N.E.2d 1324, 1328 (Ind. Ct. App. 1981).
Rather, the Court determines whether the taxpayer has presented probative evidence (i.e., met
its burden of proof) and, if so, whether the State Board has supported
its final determination with substantial evidence. See id.
Assuming only for arguments sake that the Land Order was not required in
order to make its prima facie case, Goodhost overlooks the fact that its
evidence was not uncontroverted. Indeed, the State Board found the evidence presented
by the assessors office more persuasive.
This was not improper of the
State Board, but merely a proper exercise of its statutory responsibility.
the Court did not err in affirming the State Boards final determination.
III. Goodhosts Due Process Claim
After conducting an administrative hearing on Goodhosts appeal, the State Boards hearing officer
inspected Goodhosts property. The hearing officer also conducted exterior inspections of two
of the four properties that Goodhost claimed were comparable, as well as all
three of the properties that the assessors office claimed were comparable. Goodhost
subsequently alleged the inspections violated its right to due process because it did
not have an opportunity to respond to the hearing officers inspection before the
State Board issued its final determination, nor did the hearing officer inspect all
the properties Goodhost offered as comparables. Having determined that Goodhost did not
meet its initial burden of proof, however, the Court did not address Goodhosts
due process claim. Now, in its Motion, Goodhost argues that this Court
committed an uncorrected error of law in that it failed to reach a
decision on [Goodhosts due process] issue[.]
Indiana follows the rule that a final administrative decision is a denial of
due process when the administrative authority considers evidence received outside the presence of
a party who is without notice of its consideration and who is not
afforded an opportunity to rebut the evidence. State Bd. of Tax Commrs
v. Oliverius, 294 N.E.2d 646, 651 (Ind. Ct. App. 1973). Such is
not the case in this matter.
In the first instance, no new errors were corrected as a result of
the hearing officers inspections, nor was any new evidence received. Cf. Castello
v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 638 N.E.2d 1362, 1364-65 (Ind. Tax Ct.
1994) (holding that if the State Board addresses issues in its final determination
not initially raised by the taxpayer, the taxpayer must be provided an opportunity
to rebut the evidence on the newly raised issues.) In this case,
the State Boards final determination only addressed the issue initially raised by Goodhost:
if the land was properly valued.
Furthermore, it is inconceivable to think that Goodhost was not put on notice
that the hearing officer would inspect and consider the alleged comparables, let alone
the subject property, the very subject of the appeal. Indeed, but for
Goodhosts appeal and its presentation of evidence regarding allegedly comparable properties evidence
Goodhost based its case on and wanted the hearing officer to consider
the hearing officer would not have inspected the properties in the first place.
Likewise, Goodhost received notice at the administrative hearing that the assessors office
wanted the hearing officer to consider three other allegedly comparable properties. Goodhost
had an opportunity at the hearing to rebut the assessors comparables.
Next, Goodhost asserts that its right to due process was violated in that
the State Board ignored evidence when it made its final determination. This
assertion centers on the failure of the hearing officer to inspect one of
the properties Goodhost alleged as comparable.
The Court must disagree.
It is the responsibility of the State Board to weigh the evidence presented
to it and to make a determination based thereon. In this case,
the State Board found that after inspecting two of Goodhosts comparables and three
of the assessors comparables, Goodhost did nothing more than present evidence that apartment
land was valued as apartment land (as opposed to presenting evidence that hotel/motel
land was valued as apartment land). There being substantial evidence in the
record to support that finding, the hearing officers failure to inspect the other
two alleged comparables, both apartment complexes, did not constitute reversible error.
Upon review and for the foregoing reasons, this Court DENIES Goodhosts Motion to
SO ORDERED this 2nd day of September, 2003.
Thomas G. Fisher, Judge
James W. Beatty
Stephen M. Terrell
LANDMAN & BEATTY
1150 Market Square Center
151 North Delaware Street
P.O. Box 44953
Indianapolis, IN 46244-0953
Attorney General of Indiana
By: Linda I. Villegas
Deputy Attorney General
Indiana Government Center South, Fifth Floor
402 West Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2770
In other words, each county has its own land order containing
land values that are expressed in ranges of base rates.
Admin. Code tit. 50, r. 2.2-4-4(c) (1996). The base rates, in turn,
are applied to various geographic areas, subdivisions, or neighborhoods based on their distinguishing
characteristics or boundaries. See id. As a result, some counties, for
purposes of assessment, may classify land as either apartment land or hotel/motel land
under their land order; other county land orders, however, may not.
Because Goodhost challenged the State Boards final determination, it bore the
burden of demonstrating its invalidity. See Clark v. State Bd. of Tax
Commrs, 694 N.E.2d 1230, 1233 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1998). To meet that
burden, Goodhost was required to present a prima facie case, or one in
which the evidence is sufficient to establish a given fact and which if
not contradicted will remain sufficient. See id. (quoting GTE N., Inc. v.
State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 634 N.E.2d 882, 887 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1994)).
The record is silent as to whether this alleged comparable, by
reason of its location in a different township, is subject to the same
portion of the Land Order as the subject property.
Footnote: The assessors office provided evidence that other motels in the area
were classified as hotel/motel land and therefore valued on a per square foot
basis. As the State Board explained in its final determination, while Goodhost
presented evidence that apartment land was valued as apartment land, it did not
present evidence that hotel/motel land was valued as apartment land. (
A at 6, attached to Petr Compl.)
The State Board derives its authority from the General Assembly and
only has those powers granted by statute.
See Matonovich v. State Bd.
of Tax Comm'rs, 705 N.E.2d 1093, 1096 (Ind. Tax Ct.1999), review denied.
Goodhost asserts that this failure is akin to a judge only
reviewing evidence offered by one side. (Petr Mot. to Correct Error at