Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Windham
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
Arnold W. Aronson Judge Trial Referee
The plaintiff, FC Stratford TOD, LLC, appeals the decision of the Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA) upholding the assessor's valuation of the subject property at 1055-1111 Stratford Avenue, in the town of Stratford (town) on the Grand Lists of October 1, 2012 and 2013, for the revaluation date of October 1, 2009.
The present owner purchased the subject property on September 27, 2012 for $1, 251, 000. As part of the purchase transaction, the plaintiff paid DOM, LLC the sum of $999, 000 which was payment for an assignment of its contract to purchase the subject property from the seller, Armando Genga L.P. The plaintiff paid a total consideration of $2, 250, 000 for the subject land only. On the date of purchase, the property was a vacant car dealership with a repair facility, outbuildings and a paved parking lot.
The subject site is located in a commercial neighborhood in the southern section of Stratford with frontage on Stratford Avenue and an easement access from Main Street. Public transportation to all areas of greater Bridgeport is provided by the Greater Bridgeport Transit District. In addition, the Stratford train station is located in the immediate vicinity of the subject with easy access to Metro-North rail transportation. The subject site, containing 3.28 acres, has all utilities and requires minimal site development work for the construction of apartment buildings. On December 11, 2012, zoning approval was granted for a change of zone to a Transit Oriented Development zone.
The town's appraiser, Peter A. Vimini (Vimini) provides a more detailed and descriptive summary of the subject as follows: "Property is located in southern section of Stratford. It is bordered by [I-95] on the north and west, South Avenue to Shore Road on the south, as well as the Housatonic River and Ferry Boulevard on the east. The Stratford Historic District is located in the immediate area. The area is an older section of town, predominately comprised of mixed residential, commercial related uses, as well as historical buildings. The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Stratford train station is located in the immediate area on Main Street in the north portion of the described area." (Defendant's Exhibit A, p. 6.)
In purchasing the subject property, the plaintiff planned to demolish the car dealership buildings and construct a 128-unit apartment development. At the time of purchase, all permits were in place to construct the 128 units. After the purchase of the site, the plaintiff spent approximately $280, 000 for environmental clean up and demolition, plus another $250, 000 in engineering, surveys, plans, and legal fees for a total of $530, 000. See defendant's Exhibit F, p. 1. As the defendant's appraiser Vimini notes: "Subject development is to consist of a garden-style apartment complex known as '1111 Stratford' containing five, three-story, detached apartment buildings of walk-up design . . . for a total of 128 units. . . . Apartment mix consists of 30 studio units, 67 one-bedroom units, and 31 two-bedroom units. . . ." (Defendant's Exhibit A, p. 1 of the cover letter.)
On October 1, 2011, the assessor determined that the fair market value of the land was $971, 300. See plaintiff's Exhibit 8. The assessor conducted an interim reassessment in 2012 finding that the value of the land, based on 2009 market conditions, was $5, 120, 000. See plaintiff's Exhibits 7 & 11, p. 2.
The plaintiff's appraiser, George M. Shawah, Jr. (Shawah), determined that the fair market value of the subject land only, as of the interim revaluation date of October 1, 2012, was $2, 300, 000. The defendant's appraiser, Vimini, concluded that the fair market value of the subject site, as of the interim revaluation date of October 1, 2012, was $5, 760, 000.
Shawah considered the highest and best use of the subject land as follows: "Since the project was subsequently approved for a 128-unit housing development. The highest and best use of the property must be considered the property with the existing approvals. . . ." (Plaintiff's Exhibit 11, p. 10.) Vimini also considered the highest and best use of the vacant property as follows: "Highest and Best use is for development in accordance with approvals, plans and specifications in place for a garden-style apartment complex . . . ." (Defendant's Exhibit A, p. 14.)
Both appraisers used the market sales approach to value the subject, excluding the cost approach and the income approach. Shawah relied on four sales on a market value per unit as a basis for finding a fair market value of the subject land as of October 1, 2012. The four sales are as follows:
Sale #1 - 1425 Quinnipiac Avenue in New Haven was a 4.03-acre parcel that sold on March 9, 2010 for $700, 000. Shawah commented that the property was a "rolling 4-acre site located in a less desirable residential neighborhood. The site sold with approvals in place for 20 two-bedroom townhouse-style units. The project is known as Hidden Quarry." (Plaintiff's Exhibit 11, p. 14.) With a density of 5 units/acre, this site sold for $35, 000/unit.
Sale #2 - 62 Armstrong Road in Shelton was a 12.13-acre parcel that sold on January 31, 2008 for $1, 495, 000. Shawah commented that this site was "[a] rolling site located in a desirable single-family residential district. Forty detached houses (3 and 4-bedroom) were approved for the site. Superior location, low density." (Plaintiff's Exhibit 11, p. 15.) This site sold for $37, 375/unit.
Sale #3 - Huntington Road in Shelton was a 7.07-acres parcel that was sold on November 27, 2007 for $4, 860, 000. Shawah commented that this site was an "[a]ttractive rolling site with frontage on Bridgeport Avenue. The property sold with approvals for 99 two and three-bedroom townhouse-style apartments, swimming pool and community center." (Plaintiff's Exhibit 11, p. 16.) With a density of 14 units/acre, this site sold for $49, 090/unit.
Sale #4 - 77-79 Reservoir Street in Bethel containing 25 acres was sold on May 30, 2008 for $1, 920, 000. Shawah commented that this was "[a] rolling site located in a desirable residential area of Bethel. The project is known as Bethel Meadows. This is a Toll Brothers Property. The site sold with approvals in place for 62 two and three-bedroom townhouse-style units." ...