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03/28/96 LEE COUNTY BOARD REVIEW v. PROPERTY TAX

March 28, 1996

THE LEE COUNTY BOARD OF REVIEW, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
THE PROPERTY TAX APPEAL BOARD AND VARIOUS PROPERTY OWNERS IN WOODHAVEN LAKES DEVELOPMENT, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES.



Petition for Review of an Order of the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board. Nos. 91-604-R-2, 91-605-R-2.

Released for Publication April 29, 1996.

The Honorable Justice Geiger delivered the opinion of the court: McLAREN, P.j., and Rathje, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Geiger

The Honorable Justice GEIGER delivered the opinion of the court:

The petitioner, the Lee County Board of Review (the County), appeals from a decision of the Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) granting the taxpayers' motion for summary judgment. The issue on appeal is whether the PTAB correctly found that the County incorrectly classified and assessed the taxpayers' trailers as real property for the 1991 tax year. We affirm.

Woodhaven Lakes is a recreational campground located in Lee County, Illinois. At Woodhaven Lakes, there are approximately 6,154 lots, individually owned. Each lot owner at Woodhaven Lakes owns one or more lots and a trailer.

All of the trailers at Woodhaven Lakes are portable. They have wheels attached to their frames, and neither the wheels nor the axles are removed from the trailers. When a trailer is to be moved, the utility lines are unhooked, the tongue, which is usually stored underneath the trailer, is replaced, the tires are reattached to the wheels, and the unit is raised on a jack to remove the support elements.

The trailers rest on supports, consisting of various materials, such as concrete blocks, timbers, 2-inch by 12-inch boards, or trailer jacks. The majority of trailers have supports that rest on the ground. Some supports rest on small wooden bases, approximately 12 inches by 12 inches. Other supports sit on concrete pads that are 3 to 4 inches thick, but may be as much as 8 inches thick. The concrete pads do not extend below the frost line.

Prior to 1991, the Lee County assessor's office had not assessed the trailers at Woodhaven Lakes as real or personal property; nor had the assessor's office assessed a mobile home privilege tax against the owners for the trailers. In the tax years prior to 1991, the assessor's office assessed only the Woodhaven Lakes land as real property.

In 1991, the assessor's office decided to assess the trailers as permanent improvements to the land. On or about September 26, 1991, the assessor's office issued a "Notice of Proposed Assessed Valuation" to all of the lot owners at Woodhaven Lakes, declaring that for the 1991 tax year, the trailer structures on the lots, as well as any additions to those structures, would be assessed along with the land as real property. The County approved the increase in the assessed values of the lots.

On or about December 23, 1991, 230 of the Woodhaven Lakes lot owners (taxpayers), represented by attorney David P. DeYoe, filed an appeal to the PTAB from the County's assessments for the 1991 tax year. In addition, 113 other Woodhaven Lakes lot owners (taxpayers), represented by attorney Donald Rubin, filed an appeal from the 1991 assessments.

Between the summer of 1991 and the spring of 1993, the taxpayers and the County filed briefs with the PTAB. On April 5, 1993, after a request for consolidation of their clients' appeals, attorneys DeYoe and Rubin filed a joint motion for partial summary judgment.

Specifically, the taxpayers' motion sought to have summary judgment granted on the issue of whether the trailers were properly classified and assessed by the County as real property. The taxpayers argued that their trailers were not taxable as real property under the Revenue Act of 1939 (the Revenue Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 120, par. 482 et seq.) because the trailers did not rest on permanent foundations and, therefore, did not fall within the Revenue Act's definition of real property. The taxpayers argued that their trailers instead met the statutory definition of a mobile home, pursuant to section 1 of the Mobile Home Privilege Tax Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 120, par. 1201 et seq.), and that their trailers could only be subject to the privilege tax set forth under that provision.

Several documents were submitted in support of the taxpayers' motion for summary judgment. First, there were affidavits from each appealing taxpayer, stating that "none of the structures or other improvements located on this property as of January 1, 1991[,] is resting in whole or in part on a permanent foundation (i.e., a foundation which extends below the frost line)" and that "since the day [the taxpayer] purchased or constructed the structures or other improvements located on the property until January 1, 1991, the structures and improvements have not been taxed as real estate."

The taxpayers also attached an affidavit from Sharon Templeton, the owner of 100 RV Services, Inc., a company engaged in the business of selling trailers. Templeton stated in her affidavit that she had examined 130 lots that were the subject of the appeal. She did not observe any lots on which the trailers had foundations extending below the frost line; nor did she have knowledge of any other Woodhaven Lakes lots on which the foundations extended below the frost line.

Finally, the taxpayers submitted a March 16, 1990, letter and an explanatory guide from the Department of Revenue, both of which set forth the process for assessing mobile homes under the Mobile Home Privilege Tax Act. These documents had been sent by the Department of Revenue to the Lee County supervisor of assessments, in response to the County's inquiry regarding the procedure for taxing mobile homes. The guide, entitled "Assessing Mobile Homes," distinguished between portable structures that qualify for taxation under the Mobile Home Privilege Tax Act and structures that rest on permanent foundations and are to be taxed as real property.

On September 9, 1993, the parties convened at a prehearing conference before the PTAB. At this conference, the parties entered into a prehearing agreement. According to the agreement, the County submitted as evidence copies of property record cards, photographs, fact sheets, and physical descriptions of each lot in question. The agreement used the term "primary structure" to refer to the Woodhaven Lakes trailers and the manufactured room additions to the trailers. The term "ancillary structure" referred to any unattached room additions, porches, decks, and screened enclosures located on the lots.

The agreement additionally stated: "It is further agreed by the parties that the primary structures, as defined above, are resting on the ground or on gravel or concrete pads and support is provided by concrete blocks and/or wood beams and are hooked up to one or more of the following utilities: water, sewer, and electricity."

In terms of the land assessment amounts, the parties attached to the agreement a list of current assessments and proposed revised assessments for the parcels under appeal. The parties agreed that the land assessments would be revised to reflect the attached proposal.

Furthermore, the parties agreed that the assessed values and classification of the ancillary structures as real property were correct for the 1991 tax year. The agreement stated:

"The only remaining issue is the legality of the assessments placed upon the 'primary structures' *** which are located on each parcel. The individual assessed values placed upon those 'primary structures' by the [County] are not at issue, should they be found to be assessable as real estate."

The parties additionally agreed that the appeals in the case should be consolidated.

On September 30, 1993, the County filed a response to the taxpayers' motion for summary judgment. The essence of the County's response was that the trailers at Woodhaven Lakes did not meet the statutory definition of "mobile home" under section 1 of the Mobile Home Privilege Tax Act, but that the trailers did rest on permanent foundations so as to be taxable as real property under section 1(13) of the Revenue Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 120, par. 482(13)). On October 18, 1993, the taxpayers filed a reply memorandum.

On November 9, 1993, the PTAB issued a letter to the parties, granting the taxpayers' motion for partial summary judgment. On June 21, 1994, both parties filed a joint motion to proceed without a hearing, with an attached list of parcels. In this motion, the parties indicated that the attached list represented the reduced assessments as revised pursuant to the prehearing agreement. The parties requested that the PTAB enter a final and appealable decision ...


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