Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. No. 92MR268. Honorable Leo J. Zappa, Judge Presiding.
Honorable John T. McCULLOUGH, P.j., Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J., Concurring, Honorable Frederick S. Green, J., Specially Concurring
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mccullough
PRESIDING JUSTICE McCULLOUGH delivered the opinion of the court:
Plaintiffs Illini Country Club (Illini) and the Rail Golf Course, Inc. (Rail), brought this administrative review action in the circuit court of Sangamon County against defendants State of Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board (IPTAB) and Sangamon County Board of Review (Board) for property tax relief. The circuit court affirmed the IPTAB decision, finding that both the IPTAB and the Board utilized the proper method of assessing the value of the golf courses pursuant to the "open space" valuation set forth in section 20g-1 of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 120, par. 501g-1). Plaintiffs appealed.
The only issue raised by the plaintiffs is whether the decision of the IPTAB was against the manifest weight of the evidence because an improper method of valuation of open space was employed. However, the IPTAB challenges the jurisdiction of this court, and all lower tribunals, to consider the open space valuation of the subject properties because plaintiffs have failed to follow legislatively mandated procedures in raising the issue. Specifically, the IPTAB asks this court to consider whether there first must be approval by the county assessor to an application for open space valuation before a property owner can complain about the failure of a county to assess the property as open space. The IPTAB also suggests that the question of open space valuation was not properly raised before the Board because no application was filed with the Board by the plaintiffs. We affirm.
Both plaintiffs own private 18-hole golf courses located in Sangamon County. Illini is situated on three parcels of land totalling 130.659 acres. Rail is situated on one 150.54-acre parcel. The assessed valuation of the improvements to plaintiffs' properties are not at issue in this appeal. Plaintiffs contested their 1989 real estate property tax assessments and sought reductions. The Board denied the requested relief and assigned a value of $8,500 per acre to Illini ($1,110,062) and $6,000 per acre to Rail ($903,240). Plaintiffs appealed to the IPTAB, where the proceedings were consolidated and the evidence adduced at the hearing on Illini's property was incorporated into the record with regard Rail's property.
At the hearing before the IPTAB, plaintiffs and the Board produced expert witnesses. Plaintiffs' expert witness was Ray High, a real estate appraiser; The Board's expert was "Gerald" Skilbeck, Sangamon County supervisor of assessments, also referred to as "Jerry" Skilbeck in the record.
High explained that any parcel of land qualifying as open space as defined by section 20g-1 of the Act should be assessed and taxed as open space regardless of how the land was actually used. Once the property qualified for open space use, High concluded that differences in the soil type or grade of the land had no bearing on the value of property. In arriving at the open space value of the subject properties, High looked for land possessing characteristics of open land which did not have a higher and better use. High discovered 10 properties he considered reflective of open space use. For the most part, the comparable properties consisted of part tillable farmland, overflow land, timber, or pasture land, and had sale prices that ranged from $155 to $1,354 per acre. Eight of the 10 properties were located in Sangamon County.
Sale number one contained 41.7 acres of which 30% of the tract was cropland with the remainder timberland. The property sold for $400 per acre in September 1988. Sale number two involved 97 acres of land which was overflow soil, prairie soil, and timber soils and which sold in March 1989 for $474 per acre. About 15% of that parcel was tilled at the time of sale. High had not checked the usages of these properties since the sales.
Tract three's 29.62 acres consisted of tillable overflow land which sold in January 1988 for $347 per acre. High testified that it was not being used as open space prior to the sale, and he did not testify to its use subsequent to the sale. Prior to the sale, it was farmed.
Tract four was an 85-acre parcel which sold in May 1988 for $82,000. Approximately 50% of tract four was tillable, with the rest pasture land. However, tract four contained the following improvements: a residence which rented for $350 per month, a metal clad implement shed, a small crib, and a barn. According to High, the improvements and five acres could be sold for $50,000 leaving the remaining 80 acres valued at $406.25 per acre. Quite a bit of that land was in pasture and hay.
Sale number five involved the sale of 203.11 acres for $1,354 per acre in June 1988. Although this parcel contained the same soil types as on Illini's property, High stated that parcel five consisted of some of the best soil in the county and was not a good indication of open space soil. Land of this quality could be expected to be used as tilled land. According to High, the land was actually "too good" for open space.
Parcel six sold for $340 per acre in January 1989. Only 28% of the 261-acre farm was tillable with the remaining property considered overflow land. It contained gravel deposits, which would color the sale somewhat.
The 103 acres of tract seven sold in August 1989 for $340 per acre. Seventy-one percent of parcel seven was tillable. It was not presently used as open space land. The land was tilled.
Sale number nine comprised 220 acres of rolling brush land, timberland, and bottom timberland with five acres of tillable land. This property sold in August 1986 for $155 per acre at public auction.
Properties eight and 10 were located in Christian County near Taylorville. Tract eight was similar to parcel one, but had a little smaller percentage of tillable land. This 53.45-acre parcel sold in August 1986 for $200 per acre at an auction. Sale number 10 was 54 acres of pasture land which sold for $206.86 per acre in March 1987.
Using the market approach, High concluded the three parcels held by Illini had an open space value of $450 per acre, whereas Rail's property had an open space value of $370 per acre. High determined the total open space value for ...