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

May 6, 2013

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



Appeal 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 Burke and Justice Jorgensen concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 I. INTRODUCTION

¶ 2 In Onwentsia Club v. Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, 2011 IL App (2d) 100388, an earlier appeal in this case, we vacated a decision of the Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB), construed section 10-155 of the Property Tax Code (Code) (35 ILCS 200/10-155 (West 2006)), and remanded to allow the PTAB to make additional findings. The PTAB has now done so and issued a decision finding substantial portions of land owned by respondent Onwentsia Club (Onwentsia) to be open space within the meaning of section 10-155. As a result, such land is to 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." 35 ILCS 200/10-155 (West 2006). Petitioner, the Lake County Board of Review, now appeals. We hold that the PTAB's application of the relevant portion of section 10-155 is overbroad; accordingly, we vacate and remand for further proceedings.*fn1

¶ 3 II. BACKGROUND

¶ 4 In our original disposition of this matter, we set forth the following background information, which we repeat here to facilitate an understanding of this appeal:

"The facts in this case are largely undisputed. [Onwentsia] 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 [Onwentsia'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." Onwentsia Club, 2011 IL App (2d) 100388, ¶¶ 3-4.

¶ 5 Our earlier decision turned on the construction of the following part of section 10-155: "Land is considered used for open space purposes if it is more than 10 acres in area and *** conserves landscaped areas, such as public or private golf courses ***." 35 ILCS 200/10-155 (West 2006). We held:

"[T]he plain language of the statute indicates that the legislature intended to grant open-space status not only to land that actually constitutes a landscaped area, but also to land that facilitates the existence of (i.e., conserves) a landscaped area. Quite simply, land that conserves a landscaped area has a broader meaning than land that is a landscaped area." (Emphases in original.) Onwentsia Club, 2011 IL App (2d) 100388, ¶ 10.

We went on to explain:

"[W]e hold that land, even if it contains an improvement, may be granted open-space status if it conserves landscaped areas. A golf course typically requires certain appurtenances in order to function, such as parking areas, a building in which to conduct the course business ( i.e., a clubhouse), and perhaps a building to support the physical maintenance of the course. Without such improvements, many courses would not exist. Since they facilitate the existence of the golf course, and the course conserves ...


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