Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Litchfield, Litchfield
(with first initial, no space for Sullivan, Dorsey, and
Walsh): John W. Pickard, J.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
W. Pickard, J.
a real estate tax appeal taken pursuant to General Statutes
§ 12-117a from the assessment of property on the New
Hartford Grand List of October 1, 2013. The plaintiff, Eric
Budney, filed a timely appeal of his assessment to the Board
of Assessment Appeals of the Town of New Hartford which made
no changes in the assessment. This appeal followed. The trial
took place on May 4, 2016. The attorneys accompanied me on a
site visit on May 20, 2016.
plaintiff owns real property and improvements at 634 West
Hill Road, New Hartford, Connecticut (" the
property"). The property consists of roughly .24 acres
of land on the north side of West Hill Road and the south
shore of West Hill Pond. The property has about 50 feet of
road frontage and about 54 feet of water frontage. There are
two residential buildings and a storage shed on the property.
The building nearest to the water is 808 square feet in size
and is known as " the cottage." It was constructed
in 1918. It consists of a large living room with a stone fire
place, two small bedrooms, and a small kitchen. The
shower-stall bath is attached to the rear of the dwelling.
There is a porch with a roof facing the water. This
three-season cottage is unheated and uninsulated. The cottage
is placed on piers which have shifted over the years. The
floors are noticeably uneven. It is in fair to poor
condition, even for a summer cottage. Its condition could be
improved but the age and condition of the cottage would not
justify a major renovation.
second building is known as " the cabin." The
living area is only 450 square feet in size. It was built in
1971 and is essentially an open room, with a kitchen and
small shower-stall bath on the west side. It has gas fired
hot air heat and a wood stove and is used year-round as a
dwelling. There is a 291-square-foot deck affording a partial
view of the water. This building is unattractive, small and
in need of renovation. But, it is functional for one or two
dwellings are serviced by an on-site well and septic system.
There are no apparent problems with these systems but their
long-term health must be questioned in light of the extremely
small size of the lot and the terrain which slopes quite
steeply from the road to the pond. It is clear that heavy
rain storms result in a large quantity of surface water
flowing at and around the buildings. Neighboring buildings on
both sides of the lot are very close. This creates a lack of
privacy which is quite apparent. Neither building has a
waterfront of the property is its best feature. It provides a
magnificent view of the entire length of the pond to the
north. There is a very attractive stone retaining wall along
the waterfront with stone steps leading to the water.
property is located in an R-4 Residential zone which requires
a minimum lot area of 4 acres and minimum road frontage of
200 feet. Therefore, the property is severely undersized for
even one residence. The property and improvements pre-exist
zoning and continue as pre-existing non-conformities. It
appears that the buildings could be rebuilt on their current
footprints but could not be expanded.
town's 100% valuation of the property for tax assessment
purposes is $426, 900. The plaintiff's expert appraiser,
Scott Reckert, opined that the 100% value of the property on
October 1, 2013 was $280, 000. The town's expert
appraiser, Bruce Hunter, opined that the 100% value of the
property on the same date was $450, 000.
Standard of Judicial Review
plaintiff's claim is based upon C.G.S. § 12-117a.
" In § 12-117a tax appeals, the trial court tries
the matter de novo and the ultimate question is the
ascertainment of the true and actual value of the
[taxpayer's] property . . . At the de novo proceeding,
the taxpayer bears the burden of establishing that the
assessor over-assessed its property . . . Once the taxpayer
has demonstrated aggrievement by proving that its property
was over-assessed, the trial court [will] then undertake a
further inquiry to determine the amount of the reassessment
that would be just . . . The trier of fact must arrive at
[its] own conclusions as to the value of [the taxpayer's
property] by weighing the opinion of the appraisers, the
claims of the parties in light of all the circumstances in
evidence bearing on value, and [its] own general knowledge of
the elements going to establish value . . ." (Citations
omitted.) Cadlerock Properties Joint Venture, L.P. v.
Ashford, 98 Conn.App. 556, 560 (2006).
If the trial court finds that the taxpayer has failed to meet
his burden because, for example, the court finds unpersuasive
the method of valuation espoused by the taxpayer's
appraiser, the trial court may render judgment for the town
on that basis alone." Ireland v. Wethersfield,
242 Conn. 550, 557-58 (1997). " If, however, the trial
court finds that the taxpayer, in light of the
persuasiveness, for example, of his appraiser, has
demonstrated an overvaluation of his property, the trial
court must then undertake a further inquiry to determine the
amount of the reassessment that would be just."
Id. at 558.
No one method of valuation is controlling . . . and the
[court] may select the one most appropriate in the case
before [it]." (Citations omitted; internal quotation
marks omitted.) Abington, LLC v. Avon, 101 Conn.App.
709, 715 (2007). " [T]he court's ultimate goal is to
establish the true and actual value of the subject property
and . . . it is a question of fact for the trier as to
whether the method used for valuation appears in reason and
logic to accomplish a just result . . . [No] particular
method must be utilized [and valuation principles shall
not]serve to limit the court's discretion to choose the
method that it ...