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12/05/96 OREGON COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO.

December 5, 1996

OREGON COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 220, BYRON COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 226, ROCK VALLEY COLLEGE DISTRICT NO. 511, BYRON FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, OREGON PARK DISTRICT, BYRON FOREST PRESERVE DISTRICT, BYRON MUSEUM DISTRICT, BYRON PUBLIC LIBRARY DISTRICT, ROCKVALE TOWNSHIP, AND THE COUNTY OF OGLE, INTERVENORS-PETITIONERS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THE PROPERTY TAX APPEAL BOARD, COMMONWEALTH EDISON COMPANY, AND THE OGLE COUNTY BOARD OF REVIEW, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES.



Petition for Review of Order of Property Tax Appeal Board. PTAB Docket Nos. 89--1163--I--3, 89--1164--I--3, 89--1165--I--3, 90--0968--I--3, 91--1583--I--3, 92--1069--I--3.

Released for Publication January 6, 1997.

Presiding Justice McLAREN delivered the opinion of the court: Inglis and Thomas, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mclaren

PRESIDING JUSTICE McLAREN delivered the opinion of the court:

This case is an appeal from a Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) decision assessing the respondent's, Commonwealth Edison Company's, machinery and equipment as personal property. The PTAB consolidated the appeals of the assessments for 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992 and reversed the Ogle County Board of Review's holding that the respondent's equipment was properly assessed as real property. Because the respondent sought a reduction of more than $300,000 in the assessed value of its property, we take this direct review of the PTAB's decision (35 ILCS 200/16--195 (West 1994)) and affirm.

The subject matter of this appeal is the assessments of a nuclear power plant, located in Rockvale Township, Ogle County, Illinois, commonly referred to as Byron Station (Byron), for ad valorem real property tax purposes for the years 1989 through 1992. The appellants are Oregon Community Unit School District No. 220, Byron Community Unit School District No. 226, Rock Valley College District No. 511, Byron Fire Protection District, Oregon Park District, Byron Forest Preserve District, Byron Museum District, Byron Public Library District, Rockvale Township, and the County of Ogle, Illinois (petitioners). The appellees are the PTAB, Commonwealth Edison Company (Edison), and the Ogle County Board of Review (Board) (collectively, the respondents).

For the years in question, the Board determined that the parcels of land containing the Byron Nuclear Power Plant had an assessed value of:

1989 $545,775,470

1990 516,578,120

1991 1,070,820,160

1992 1,054,223,370

Edison appealed these assessments to the PTAB. The PTAB consolidated the appeals. The petitioners intervened in the appeal. The PTAB hearing began on May 18, 1995, and ended on July 26, 1995.

THE PTAB's FINDINGS

The PTAB determined that, under section 24--5 of the Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/24--5 (West 1994)) the machinery and equipment at the Byron site should be classified as personal property. The PTAB found: (1) prior to January 1, 1979, Ogle County classified land, building structures, lot improvements, and building-related property as real property; (2) prior to January 1, 1979, Ogle County classified manufacturing process machinery and equipment as personal property; (3) prior to January 1, 1979, Troop, Ogle County supervisor of assessments from 1973 through 1984, classified the machinery and equipment at Byron as personal property with the exception of the steam generators; (4) Troop's classification of the steam generators as real property violated Ogle County's uniform classification policy; (5) the machinery and equipment at Byron are similar and of like kind to that found at other Ogle County industries classified as personal property; (6) the process/building-related classification scheme was applied to every Ogle County taxpayer with the exception of Edison after 1979; (7) Harrison, the Ogle County supervisor of assessments in 1991, and the Board erroneously reclassified the Byron property in 1991 because of an assistant State's Attorney's erroneous interpretation of Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 219 Ill. App. 3d 550, 162 Ill. Dec. 268, 579 N.E.2d 1082 (1991) (hereinafter Zion); (8) after subtracting the value of land not at issue, Real Estate Analysis Corporation's (REAC) appraisals are best evidence of the value of the real property at the Byron; and (9) the appraised value of the real property at Byron and its assessed value are as follows:

APPRAISED VALUE YEAR MEDIAN LEVELS ASSESSED VALUE

$1,148,512,252 -- 1989 -- 32.21% -- $369,935,795

1,138,053,989 -- 1990 -- 31.87 -- 362,697,803

1,056,055,537 -- 1991 -- 33.01 -- 348,603,993

958,055,532 -- 1992 -- 33.20 -- 318,074,438

In essence, the petitioners argue that the Edison's power generating machinery and equipment should be classified, assessed, and taxed as real property. According to the petitioners, the major items in dispute are the Nuclear Steam Supply System (NSSS) (with the exception of the reactor vessels), piping and electrical equipment, including power and control cables, and cable pans. The petitioners assert that the PTAB erroneously: (1) reclassified the property in violation of the "Freeze Act" (35 ILCS 200/24--5 (West 1994)); (2) applied the like kind test; (3) classified the respondent's property as personal property; and (4) adopted the respondent's classification test.

The standard of review for a PTAB decision is governed by the Administrative Review Law. 735 ILCS 5/3--101 et seq. (West 1994); Boone County Board of Review v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 276 Ill. App. 3d 989, 993-94, 213 Ill. Dec. 442, 659 N.E.2d 72 (1995). Section 3--110 of the Administrative Review Law provides, "the findings and conclusions of the administrative agency on questions of fact shall be held prima facie true and correct." 735 ILCS 5/3--110 (West 1994).

Thus, when reviewing the administrative agency's findings of fact, we may not reweigh the evidence or make an independent determination of the facts. Abrahamson v. Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, 153 Ill. 2d 76, 88, 180 Ill. Dec. 34, 606 N.E.2d 1111 (1992); Boone County, 276 Ill. App. 3d at 994. Accordingly, we will not disturb an agency's findings of fact unless they are against the manifest weight of the evidence. Abrahamson, 153 Ill. 2d at 88; Boone County, 276 Ill. App. 3d at 994.

A finding is not against the manifest weight of the evidence unless the opposite conclusion is clearly evident. Abrahamson, 153 Ill. 2d at 88; Boone County, 276 Ill. App. 3d at 994. Thus, we will not disturb an agency's finding of fact merely because an opposite conclusion is reasonable or because we may have found differently. Abrahamson, 153 Ill. 2d at 88; Boone County, 276 Ill. App. 3d at 994. In addition, weighing of evidence and determining the credibility of the witnesses is the job of the PTAB and is uniquely within its province. La Salle Partners, Inc. v. Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, 269 Ill. App. 3d 621, 632, 207 Ill. Dec. 101, 646 N.E.2d 935 (1995). If the PTAB's findings of fact are reasonable, it does not matter if we might have reached a different result had we been the trier of fact. Abrahamson, 153 Ill. 2d at 88. Accordingly, if the record contains evidence to support an agency's finding of fact, it will not be disturbed. Abrahamson, 153 Ill. 2d at 88-89; Boone County, 276 Ill. App. 3d at 994.

Conversely, an administrative agency's determinations of law are not accorded the same deference as its finding of fact. Perto v. Board of Review, 274 Ill. App. 3d 485, 490, 654 N.E.2d 232, 210 Ill. Dec. 933 (1995). It is well settled that an agency's finding on a question of law, such as the interpretation of a statute, is not binding on this court. Wyndemere Retirement Community v. Department of Revenue, 274 Ill. App. 3d 455, 459, 654 N.E.2d 608, 211 Ill. Dec. 146 (1995). Thus, we must review questions of law de novo. Illini Country Club v. State Property Tax Appeal Board, 263 Ill. App. 3d 410, 416-17, 200 Ill. Dec. 764, 635 N.E.2d 1347 (1994). However, we must give substantial weight and deference to statutory interpretations made by an administrative agency charged with administration of a particular statute. Abrahamson, 153 Ill. 2d at ...


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