Tax Court affirms Lake Co. assessments, cites lack of evidence in record

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A development company seeking a significant reduction in Lake County tax assessments failed to offer sufficient evidence to support a reduction, the Indiana Tax Court has affirmed.

At issue in Gold Coast Rand Development Corp. v. Lake County Assessor, 22T-TA-10, are five residential properties in Gary owned by Gold Coast Rand Development Corp. Andy Young, president of Gold Coast, sought review of the 2017 tax assessments of those properties on the basis that the original assessments exceeded the valuation set forth in a 2012 settlement agreement.

But the Lake County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals found insufficient evidence to warrant a change in the assessments, which were valued at $3,200 for one parcel and $1,200 each for the other four.

Gold Coast responded with five individual appeals to the Indiana Board of Tax Appeals, which held telephonic hearings in February 2022. Gold Coast argued the use of telephonic hearings was prejudicial to its presentation of certain geographic evidence.

Also, on the merits, Gold Coast argued the Lake County assessor had used a “shoddy” methodology to produce the assessments, particularly as to the development of the base rates. It sought an assessment reduction to $600 for one parcel and $1,000 each for the other four.

The assessor, however, noted Young was not a certified Level III assessor-appraiser. Additionally, the assessor argued Gold Coast had offered only “its own unsupported valuation opinions rather than reliable, probative market-based evidence.”

The Indiana board agreed and affirmed the assessments. It also rejected Gold Coast’s prejudice argument, noting the company had an opportunity to request an in-person or Zoom hearing but did not do so.

The board then denied rehearing, and the case went to the Tax Court, which also affirmed.

Before the Tax Court, Gold Coast presented 12 exhibits that were not included in the certified administrative record because, according to Gold Coast, Lake County assessing officials either refused to provide information or provided “false information” until after the hearings before the Indiana board. It argued those exhibits — which included maps, emails, spreadsheets and copies of a reassessment plan, among other documents — corroborated its argument that “the Lake County assessing officials committed a litany of assessment irregularities.”

“The certified administrative record, however, belies Gold Coast’s claims,” Judge Martha Wentworth wrote. “Indeed, the record indicates that Lake County assessing officials provided Gold Coast with the documentation it requested before the Indiana Board hearings.

“… Consequently, there is no evidence before the Court that indicates that the twelve exhibits at issue constitute ‘newly discovered’ evidence,” Wentworth continued. “… Therefore, the Court will not consider the twelve exhibits attached to Gold Coast’s brief in resolving this appeal.

“Finally, even if the Tax Court were to consider Gold Coast’s twelve exhibits, they would not aid Gold Coast’s claims,” Wentworth concluded, nothing several exhibits related to information from the years before or after 2017. Additionally, Gold Coast did not cite to any evidence in the certified administrative record to support its arguments.

“Finally, the Indiana Board, as trier of fact, weighed the credibility and reliability of the record evidence, finding that Gold Coast had not offered probative market-based evidence to demonstrate the five parcels’ correct values for the 2017 tax year, and the Tax Court does not have the statutory authority to review the evidence de novo. … Accordingly, the Court finds that Gold Coast has not shown that it is entitled to the relief it seeks.”

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