ORDER AND DECISION
the court is petitioners Jay Plante, Marcia Harrington, Dan
Morgenstern, Moriah Moser, Averil Fessenden, Rol Fessenden,
Chris McCarthy, Kari McCarthy, Paul Wood, Cindy Wood, Ann
Ruthsdottir, and Anne Richards's Rule 80B appeal of
respondent Town of Brunswick's October 29, 2018 decision.
Respondent Town's Board of Assessment Review affirmed the
respondent Town's Tax Assessor's valuation of
petitioners' solar panel systems for the 2017 tax year.
For the following reasons, respondent Town of Brunswick's
Board of Assessment Review's decision is affirmed.
are residents and property owners in Brunswick, Maine. (R.
Tab 32.) All petitioners own either a solar photovoltaic (PV)
or a solar thermal system. (R. Tab 32.) Respondent Town of
Brunswick is a municipality located in Cumberland County,
2017 tax year, respondent Town underwent a town-wide
revaluation of all real property. Respondent Town hired KRT
Appraisal to conduct the revaluation. (R. Tab 16.)
Petitioners' properties were assessed with extra value
due to their installation of residential solar panel systems.
(R. Tab 9.) Each solar panel system unit (panel) was assessed
by respondent Town's Tax Assessor, Cathleen Jamison, with
a value of $500. (R. Tab 9.)
requested an abatement from Assessor Jamison and claimed that
the solar panel systems were overvalued. (R. Tabs 4, 7.) On
May 18, 2018, assessor Jamison sent letters to petitioners.
(R. Tab 8.) In these letters, Assessor Jamison informed
petitioners that solar panel systems are not exempt from
taxation by state law and must be assessed for taxation. (R.
Tab 8.) Assessor Jamison states that she used the
"income approach" in order to assess the value of
the solar panel systems because the other two methods, the
"cost approach" and the "sales comparison
approach," were not ideal to assess the solar panel
systems' value. (R. Tab 8.) Assessor Jamison adjusted the
value of each solar panel from $500 to $200 per panel. (R.
9, 2018, petitioners appealed Assessor Jamison's
valuation of their solar panel systems to respondent
Town's Board of Assessment Review. (R. Tab 3.)
Petitioners claimed that Assessor Jamison's valuation
methods did not comport with Maine's constitutional
requirements. (R. Tab 3 3-6.) On October 11, 2018, respondent
Town's Board of Assessment Review met to address
petitioners' appeal. (R. Tab 1.) During the 2.5-hour
hearing, the Board heard testimony from: petitioners'
attorney Brian Marshall; petitioners Jay Plante, Marcia
Harrington, and Ann Ruthsdottir; Fortunat Mueller of Re
Vision Energy; Mike Wilson, the chair of the Recycling and
Sustainability Committee; respondent Town's Attorney
Stephen Langsdorf; and respondent Town's current Assessor
Justin Hennessey. (R. Tab 2; Tr.) At the' hearing,
Assessor Justin Hennessey testified that former Assessor
Jamison used a program called the "PV tool" to help
calculate an average value for solar panel system units in
order to assist in a reasonable mass appraisal. (R. Tab 2; Tr.
four Board members present at the meeting voted unanimously
to deny the petitioners' appeal. (R. Tab 12.) The Board
found no discrimination or illegality with the solar panel
system assessments and that petitioners failed to present any
evidence or testimony to demonstrate that their assessments
were unjust or excessive. (R. Tab 11-2.)
filed a complaint for appeal of government action pursuant to
Rule 80B on November 15, 2018. M.R. Civ. P. 80B. In the
complaint, petitioners allege (1) respondent Town's solar
panel system assessment was not based on any acceptable
assessment methodology, (Compl. ¶ 40); (2) respondent
Town's solar panel system assessment unfairly
discriminates among solar panel system owners by applying a
uniform assessment rate, (Compl.¶ 41); (3) respondent
Town's solar panel system assessment unfairly
discriminates against solar panel system owners compared to
property owners who have made home energy investments other
than solar panel systems, (Compl.¶ 42); and (4) the
Board's decision to uphold the tax is an error of law, an
abuse of discretion, and is not based on substantial
evidence. (Compl.¶ 43.) In their brief, petitioners
argue that the solar tax assessment is not supported by any
competent assessment method and unfairly discriminates
against solar owners as a class and between solar owners who
own solar panels with widely varying technological
capabilities. (Pets.1 Br. 1-2.)
filed their brief in support of their Rule 80B on December
20, 2018. Respondent Town filed its brief on January 22,
2019. Petitioners filed a reply brief on February 5, 2019.
Standard of Review
court reviews Board decisions for errors of law, abuse of
discretion, or findings not supported by substantial evidence
in the record. Aydelott v. City of Portland, 2010 ME
25, ¶10, 990 A.2d 1024 (quotation omitted).
"Substantial evidence exists when a reasonable mind
would rely on that evidence as sufficient support for a
conclusion; the possibility of drawing two inconsistent
conclusions does not render the evidence insubstantial."
Adelman v. Town of Baldwin,2000 ME 91, ¶ 12,
750 A.2d 577. When a Board concludes that petitioner has
failed to meet the burden to prove that an abatement was
merited, the court "will vacate the Board's decision
only if the record compels a contrary ...