Attorney for Petrin Appellants: John Shumadine, Esq.
Attorney for Bolton Appellants: William Dale, Esq.
Attorneys for Angell Family Appellants: Kris J. Eimicke, Esq.
Jonathan Block, Esq.
Attorney for Appellee: Michael A. Hodgins, Esq.
ORDER AND JUDGMENT
three cases present appeals by Plaintiff property taxpayers
["the Taxpayers"] pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 80B and
36 M.R.S. § 843(1) from decisions of the Town
of Scarborough Board of Assessment Review ["the
Board"]] on the Taxpayers' applications to the Town
of Scarborough for property tax abatements.
the second time the Taxpayers have appealed from the
Board's decisions on their abatement requests. Their
first appeals were heard in the Business and Consumer Court
initially and then in the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine,
sitting as the Law Court. See Petrin v. Town of
Scarborough, 2015 Me. Super. LEXIS 37 (Docket No.
BCD-AP-14-03), vacated and remanded in part, 2016 ME
136, 147 A.3d 842; Angell Family 2012 Prouts Neck Trust
v. Town of Scarborough, Me. Bus. & Consumer Ct,
Docket No. CV-14-59, vacated and remanded in part,
2016 ME 152, 149 A.3d271.
Court rejected the Taxpayers' appeals on most of the
grounds they advanced, but upheld the appeals as they related
to the program of the Town of Scarborough ["the
Town"]] for assessing separate but abutting parcels held
in common ownership. The program is described as follows:
abutting property program allows a taxpayer who owns multiple
abutting lots to elect to have the separate lots assessed as
a single unit. The abutting property program results in a
lower valuation of the two lots than if they were assessed
independently of each other." Angell Family 2012
Prouts Neck Trust v. Town of Scarborough, 2016 ME 152,
¶16, 149 A.3d 271 (internal ellipses omitted).
"This necessarily means that those who do not own
abutting lots are subjected to taxes that are not imposed on
owners of lots that happen to be abutting." Petrin
v. Town of Scarborough, 2016 ME 136, ¶ 31, 147 A.3d
Court concluded that the Town's abutting property program
"necessarily results in an unequal apportionment of the
tax burden, " Angell, 2016 ME 152 at ¶21,
and violates the Taxpayers' right to equal protection.
Petrin, 2016 ME 136 at ¶¶31-32.
Accordingly, the Law Court remanded the Taxpayers'
appeals to the Business and Consumer Court, with directions
that the appeals be remanded to the Board for "further
proceedings to address the inequality in tax treatment
affecting the Taxpayers because of the abutting property
program." Petrin v. Town of Scarborough, 2016
ME 136 at ¶32, 147 A.3d 842. The Business and Consumer
Court remanded the appeals to the Board without retaining
Board convened a further hearing on the appeals on three days
in March and April 2017, taking evidence and argument.
See AR 386-711 (transcripts of
to the first hearing date, counsel for the Taxpayers and the
Town submitted position statements to the Board. AR 121-26,
Taxpayers in their statement asked for a 99% reduction in the
assessed value of their land (but not assessed value of the
improvements on their land), based on what they claimed to be
the extent of the improper assessment of undeveloped abutting
lots under the abutting property program. AR 126. The
Town's statement advised that Maine law calls for the
Board to award for "such reasonable abatement as the
board thinks proper, " AR 301, quoting36 M.R.S.
§ 843(1), and suggested that "the maximum remedy is
to return the entire program's benefit-dollar for dollar-
to the complaining Taxpayers." AR 309.
the agreement of both the Taxpayers and the Town, the Board
decided to expand the scope of the hearing beyond the 2012-13
property tax year that was addressed in the Business and
Consumer Court and Law Court decisions. Some but not all of
the Taxpayers applied for abatements during the next three
tax years as well. See Board Decision at 1 &
n.l, AR 742. Accordingly, the Board took evidence on what
property tax abatements the Taxpayers should be granted for
the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 tax years as well as for the
2012-13 tax year. Id. The abutting property program
was discontinued in 2016 after the Law Court decisions had
issued. See id.
Administrative Record includes numerous exhibits and data
concerning the effects of the abutting property program on
the tax base as a whole, on the abutting lot owners who
benefited from the program, and on the Taxpayers:
• The number of the abutting lot owners who benefited
from the abutting property program varied by tax year. The
Town calculates that there were 37 abutting lots assessed at
below-market rates during the 2012-13 tax year, but 18 of
those were assessed at full value as of 2014, leaving only 19
abutting lots still under-assessed as of 2016. AR 300.
• After the Law Court decision issued in 2016, the Town
revalued all of the unimproved abutting lots, with most
increasing in assessed value. AR 408-10. Those that did not
see a significant increase in assessed value were unbuildable
or lacking in access. AR 406-08.
• According to the Town's calculations, the
unimproved abutting lots in the program were assessed in the
2012-13 tax year at more than 82% below their market
value. See table at Tab 8, AR 293-94.
• However, the total land portion of the assessment for
those the Taxpayers (meaning the assessment for both abutting
lots owned by each taxpayer) reflected a much lower discount
off market value-the total land assessment for those the
Taxpayers was at a discount averaging 31.48% off market value
for the 2012-13 tax year. See table at Tab 9, AR
295-99. The difference in the size of the discount is due to
the fact that the improved lots abutting the ...