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Onwentsia Club v. Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board and Lake County Board of Review

June 16, 2011

ONWENTSIA CLUB,
PETITIONER,
v.
ILLINOIS PROPERTY TAX APPEAL BOARD AND LAKE COUNTY BOARD OF REVIEW, RESPONDENTS.



On Petition for Administrative Review from the Property Tax Appeal Board. Nos. 06-00614.001-C-3; 06-00614.004-C-3

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hudson

JUSTICE HUDSON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Presiding Justice Jorgensen and Justice Hutchinson concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Petitioner, Onwentsia Club, appeals a decision of the Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) that affirmed (in pertinent part) a decision of the Lake County board of review, both bodies being named as respondents in the instant action. The board of review denied open-space status to certain portions of land owned by petitioner. Having one's property classified as open space is favorable to a land owner in terms of taxation. See 35 ILCS 200/10-155 (West 2006). The PTAB agreed with the board of review. We, however, do not. Accordingly, we vacate and remand with directions.

BACKGROUND

The facts in this case are largely undisputed. Petitioner is a private golf club located in Lake Forest. The club occupies about 180 acres of land, which is divided into 10 tax parcels. Most of the land consists of an 18-hole golf course. However, other portions of the land are occupied by a swimming pool, clubhouse, horse riding area, stable, parking lot, driveway, and tennis courts. These improvements cover 8.72 acres.

Prior to 2006, the Lake County assessor's office granted open-space status to all property owned by a golf course. For other owners of land, only those portions of their property that were actually used for open-space purposes were granted open-space status. In 2006, the county began treating golf courses in the same manner that it treated other owners of land. Accordingly, it assessed improved portions of golf courses based on their fair-market value as a residential use. In 2006, open space was assessed at a rate of $1,000 per acre. Changing the designation of the improved portions of petitioner's land to residential resulted in substantial increases in their assessed value. For example, a 3.85-acre tax parcel that would have been assessed at $3,850 had it been granted open-space status for its improved portions was now assessed at $861,594.

Central to this appeal is the following statute: "Open space land; valuation. In all counties, in addition to valuation as otherwise permitted by law, land which is used for open space purposes and has been so used for the 3 years immediately preceding the year in which the assessment is made, upon application under Section 10-160, shall be valued on the basis of its fair cash value, estimated at the price it would bring at a fair, voluntary sale for use by the buyer for open space purposes.

Land is considered used for open space purposes if it is more than 10 acres in area and:

(a) is actually and exclusively used for maintaining or enhancing natural or scenic resources,

(b) protects air or streams or water supplies,

(c) promotes conservation of soil, wetlands, beaches, or marshes, including ground cover or planted perennial grasses, trees and shrubs and other natural perennial growth, and including ...


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