Appeal from the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Quinn
After a hearing, the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) affirmed the Lake Point Tower level "A" parking garage (level "A") assessment of $633,184 for each of the tax years of 1997 and 1998. The Lake Point Tower Association (Tower Association) and Lake Point Garage Association (Garage Association) bring this consolidated appeal alleging (1) level "A" was a common area and thus subject to pay $1 in property tax for each of the tax years of 1997 and 1998; and (2) the PTAB violated the Tower and Garage Associations' constitutional right of equal protection by failing to assess the property tax of level "A" as other similar properties. Although the original action before the PTAB involved numerous taxpayers and their properties, the only property on this appeal is the level "A" parking garage. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
Lake Point Tower (Tower) is primarily a residential high-rise condominium building with an adjoining parking garage. The Tower is 70 stories tall and consists of 718 residential units. There is a restaurant, a market, a coin-operated laundry, a dry cleaner, a travel agency, a ticket broker, a nail salon and a company called American Invesco located inside the Tower. The building is managed by the Tower Association.
The garage, which is underneath the residential tower, consists of four parking levels - "A," "B," "C," and "D." Levels "B," "C" and "D" consist of 436 parking spaces. These are private parking spaces owned by the residents of the Tower. Level "A" is located on the basement level of the Tower. It has over 300 parking spaces. Since there are 718 residential units in the Tower, with 436 parking spaces available on parking levels "B" to "D," many of the residential units that do not have a parking space on those floors rent parking spaces on level "A." Level "A" was initially owned by the building developer, Lake Point Tower Limited Partnership.
In 1996, the developer converted level "A" into a condominium by the filing of a separate condominium declaration. Level "A" became governed and managed by a new and separate association - the Garage Association.
On March 7, 1997, the Tower Association purchased level "A" from the developer because the developer was considering allowing the public to park on level "A." The Tower Association paid $3.2 million for level "A." When the Tower Association bought level "A," it was identified as "Unit A-1" or "Unit No. A-1" in the garage condominium declaration. The Tower Association became a member of the Garage Association.
After purchasing level "A," the Garage Association retained Standard Parking to oversee its daily operation. Standard Parking provided valet parking services on level "A" and monthly parking to some of the residents of the tower. It also provided daily or hourly parking for the visitors of the residents and to business patrons of the Tower. Some employees of the commercial businesses located in the Tower also rented parking spaces on a monthly basis on level "A."
The president of the Tower Association, John Houston, testified that the Tower's residents' monthly rentals make up approximately 75% of level "A"'s total revenue, and the rest of the revenue come from transient visitors. Houston further testified that should the demand for residential monthly parking exceed the number of the parking spaces available, all transient parking would be terminated to accommodate the residents of the Tower.
In 1997 and 1998, level "A"'s assessment was $633,184 for each of the tax years. The Tower and Garage Associations appealed to the Cook County Board of Review arguing that level "A" should be subject to a $1 tax assessment because it was a common area for recreational or similar residential purposes. The Board of Review found that level "A" was designated as a condominium unit according to the Garage Association declaration. As such, level "A" was not a common area under the Illinois Condominium Property Act. 765 ILCS 605/1 et seq. (West 1996). Consequently, level "A" was not eligible for the special $1 assessment under either the Condominium Property Act or the Illinois Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/10-35(a) (West 1996)). The Tower and Garage Associations appealed to the PTAB. After a hearing, the PTAB affirmed the Board of Review's ruling. On appeal, the Tower and Garage Associations assert that (1) level "A" was a common area and thus subject to $1 in property tax for each of the tax years of 1997 and 1998; and (2) the PTAB violated the Tower and Garage Associations' constitutional right of equal protection by failing to assess the property tax of level "A" as other similar properties.
An administrative agency's determination regarding questions of law is reviewed de novo. City of Belvidere v. Illinois State Labor Relations Board, 181 Ill. 2d 191, 205 (1998). An agency's interpretation of a statute is a question of law. Albazzaz v. Department of Professional Regulation, 314 Ill. App. 3d 97, 105 (2000). An agency's rulings regarding mixed questions of fact and law are not to be disturbed unless they are clearly erroneous. Belvidere, 181 Ill. 2d at 205. Under the clearly erroneous standard, a reviewing court should reverse an administrative agency's decision only if the court has a definite and firm conviction that the agency was mistaken. AFM Messenger Service, Inc. v. Department of Employment Security, ...