ANGELL FAMILY 2012 PROUTS NECK TRUST et al.
TOWN OF SCARBOROUGH et al. KENYON C. BOLTON III et al.
TOWN OF SCARBOROUGH et al.
Argued: December 8, 2015
William H. Dale, Esq., and Tudor N. Goldsmith, Esq., Jensen
Baird Gardner & Henry, Portland, for appellants Kenyon C.
Bolton III et al.
Jonathan A. Block, Esq., and Kris Eimicke, Esq., Pierce
Atwood LLP, Portland, for appellants Angell Family 2012
Prouts Neck Trust et al.
J. Crawford, Esq., and N. Joel Moser, Esq., Bernstein Shur,
Portland, for appellee Town of Scarborough et al.
William H. Dale, Esq., for appellants Kenyon C. Bolton III et
al. and Angell Family 2012 Prouts Neck Trust et al.
Michael A. Hodgins, Esq., Bernstein Shur, Portland, for
appellee Town of Scarborough et al.
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM,
In our recent decision in Petrin v. Town of
Scarborough, 2016 ME 136, __ A.3d __, we considered
challenges to increases in municipal property taxes for
parcels located in several neighborhoods in the Town of
Scarborough. We determined that although the Scarborough
Board of Assessment Review did not err by concluding that a
partial revaluation conducted by the Town was proper, the
Towns practice of undervaluing separate but abutting lots
held in common ownership resulted in discriminatory tax
treatment. See id. ¶ 45.
In this separate action, which is based on a separate record,
we address similar challenges brought by Kenyon C. Bolton III
and other owners of residential waterfront
properties located in Prouts Neck, which is an area
of Scarborough that was not at issue in Petrin. The
plaintiffs (collectively, the Taxpayers) appeal from a
judgment entered in the Business and Consumer Docket
(Horton, J.) concluding that they do not have
standing to pursue one of their challenges but otherwise
affirming the Boards denial of their tax abatement petitions.
For reasons similar to those in Petrin, we determine
that the Taxpayers in this case have standing to pursue all
of their challenges. Additionally, although we affirm the
Boards conclusion that the partial revaluation was proper, we
conclude that the Board erred by denying the Taxpayers
requests for abatement based on the Towns practice of
undervaluing abutting lots, which resulted in discriminatory
assessments. We therefore vacate the judgment and remand to
the Business and Consumer Docket with instructions to remand
to the Board for further proceedings.
After holding a hearing, the Board made the following
findings of fact, which are based on competent evidence in
the record. See Terfloth v. Town of Scarborough,
2014 ME 57, ¶ 10, 90 A.3d 1131.
Scarborough last conducted a valuation of all properties
located in the Town for purposes of municipal tax assessments
in 2005. The Town Assessor, however, continually monitors
hundreds of sales of Scarborough property and conducts
studies to ensure that assessment-to-sales ratios- both in
individual neighborhoods and town-wide-are as close as
possible to 100%. In 2012, based on an ongoing analysis of
sales data, then-Town Assessor Paul Lesperance reassessed
parcels of land in certain Scarborough neighborhoods. The
partial revaluation resulted in increased assessments for
waterfront properties in three areas, including Prouts Neck,
and for interior properties in a fourth neighborhood. Each of
those neighborhoods constitutes a distinct market that cannot
be compared to other areas in the Town.
For Prouts Neck, the data, which consisted of eight property
sales, showed that waterfront properties were selling for
significantly more than their assessed values. As a result of
the revaluation, assessments of those properties increased by
10-15%. Prouts Neck is a unique neighborhood with amenities,
including a golf course, beach club, and yacht club, that
enhance the value of properties located there. Lesperance did
not increase assessments of waterfront properties in a
separate neighborhood, Piper Shores, which is not comparable
to Prouts Neck because it is a significant distance from the
Prouts Neck amenities and because the parcels there are
In early 2013, the Taxpayers, who separately own seventeen
parcels of land in Prouts Neck, each applied for a tax
abatement pursuant to 36 M.R.S. § 841(1)
(2015). In their applications, the Taxpayers
alleged that the partial revaluation unjustly discriminated
against them because it resulted in increased assessments for
their properties but not for other similarly situated
properties. Lesperance denied the applications, and
the Taxpayers appealed to the Board. See 36 M.R.S.
§ 843(1) (2015). By agreement of the parties, the Board
consolidated the appeals and held a two-day public hearing in
December 2013 and January 2014. The evidence at the hearing
focused both on the partial revaluation and an "excess
land" policy, which affects the Towns valuation of lots
larger than one acre and abutting lots in common ownership.
In a written decision issued in March 2014, the Board denied
the Taxpayers consolidated appeals. The Board endorsed the
Towns practice of assessing a lot in common ownership with a
second abutting lot "at a significantly lower rate,
" finding that the impact of the "policy was minor
and did not make the assessments discriminatory." With
respect to the partial revaluation, the Board found that
Lesperances reliance on the eight property sales in Prouts
Neck was reasonable and that the data confirmed that the
assessment-to-sales ratio there was "significantly
less" than 100%, justifying the increased assessments.
The Board further concluded that, in contrast to Prouts Neck,
there was an insufficient number of sales in Piper Shores to
justify an increase in assessments there and that in any
event, the two neighborhoods are not comparable. The Board
also noted that Maine Revenue Services (MRS) had reviewed the
market data for the waterfront areas affected by the
revaluation and had "concluded that the Towns assessment
methodology was sound and acceptable."
Overall, the Board concluded that Lesperances "appraisal
techniques were thorough and well-grounded in expert
assessing methodology" and that the Taxpayers had not
met their burden of establishing that the assessments were
"manifestly wrong" or discriminatory.
In two groups, the Taxpayers filed complaints in the Superior
Court (Cumberland County) pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 80B(a) and
36 M.R.S. § 843, appealing the Boards decision denying
their requests for tax abatements. The two actions were
consolidated and transferred to the Business and Consumer
Docket. In February 2015, the court entered a judgment
affirming the Boards decision. The court concluded that the
Taxpayers did not have standing to challenge the Towns excess