Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bolton v. Town of Scarborough

Supreme Court of Maine

December 23, 2019

KENYON C. BOLTON III et al.
v.
TOWN OF SCARBOROUGH

          Argued: September 24, 2019

          Jonathan A. Block, Esq., Pierce Atwood LLP, Portland; John B. Shumadine, Esq., and Sage M. Friedman, Esq., Murray Plumb & Murray, Portland; and William H. Dale, Esq. (orally), Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry, Portland, for appellants Kenyon C. Bolton III et al.

          Michael A. Hodgins, Esq. (orally), Eaton Peabody, Bangor, and Zachary B. Brandwein, Esq., Bernstein Shur, Portland, for appellant Town of Scarborough

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, [*] JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.

          ALEXANDER, J.

         [¶1] Three years ago, we concluded that the Town of Scarborough had engaged in an unlawful and discriminatory assessment practice that violated the equal protection rights of Kenyon C. Bolton III and other plaintiffs (collectively, the Taxpayers); based on this conclusion, we remanded the matter to the Scarborough Board of Assessment Review "for a determination of the appropriate abatements" to address the inequality in tax treatment affecting the Taxpayers as a result of the discriminatory practice. Angell Family 2012 Prouts Neck Tr. v. Town of Scarborough, 2016 ME 152, ¶¶ 1-2, 15-21, 36, 149 A.3d 271');">149 A.3d 271 [hereinafter Angell]; Petrin v. Town of Scarborough, 2016 ME 136, ¶¶ 2, 8-9, 18, 23-32, 45, 147 A.3d 842.

         [¶2] In this consolidated appeal, we now consider whether the abatements formulated by the Board and reviewed by the Superior Court after our remand pass constitutional muster. Because we conclude that the Board's decision granting the Taxpayers eight percent abatements to their land values, as recommended to the Board by the Town, satisfies constitutional requirements, we vacate the judgment of the Superior Court (Cumberland County, Horton, J.) and remand with the direction to affirm the Board's original decision after remand.

         I. CASE HISTORY

         [¶3] The issues before us stem from the Town's former practice of allowing any owner of two separate but abutting parcels, one of which was undeveloped, to request that those parcels be valued as if they were a single lot to attain a lower overall assessment than if the parcels were valued separately. See Angell, 2016 ME 152, ¶¶ 15-16, 149 A.3d 271');">149 A.3d 271; Petrin, 2016 ME 136, ¶ 8, 147A.3d842.

         [¶4] In our previous opinions, we concluded that the Board had erred in denying the Taxpayers' abatement requests because the abutting lot program violated the statutory requirement that each parcel of real estate be assessed separately, see 36 M.R.S. § 708 (2018), and the constitutional requirement that real estate be assessed at its just value, see Me. Const, art. IX, § 8. See Angell, 2016 ME 152, ¶ 19, 149 A.3d 271');">149 A.3d 271; Petrin, 2016 ME 136, ¶¶ 26-29, 147 A.3d 842. We further held that because the abutting lot program violated Maine law and imposed property taxes on the Taxpayers at rates that were not imposed on similarly situated owners of lots that happened to be abutting other lots of those owners, it contravened the Taxpayers' rights to equal protection. See Angell, 2016 ME 152, ¶¶ 20, 36, 149 A.3d 271');">149 A.3d 271; Petrin, 2016 ME 136, ¶¶ 29-31, 45, 147A.3d842.

         [¶5] Respecting our direction on remand that it provide the Taxpayers with appropriate abatements to address this inequality, the Board conducted hearings on the issue in early 2017. Because the Town had continued to implement the program, and most of the Taxpayers had continued to file yearly abatement requests during the intervening years between their initial requests and our decisions in 2016, the parties agreed to expand the scope of the proceedings to allow the Board to determine the appropriate abatements for the four tax years in question-which was labeled the "abatement period."[1] The Board received exhibits from both sides and heard extensive testimony from the Town's Special Deputy Assessor regarding the impact of the abutting lot program on both the Town in general and each of the Taxpayers who were parties to the proceeding.

         [¶6] At the conclusion of the hearings, the Town urged the Board to grant the Taxpayers eight percent abatements to their land values because the total dollar amount of such abatements would be approximately equal to the total dollar amount of taxes avoided by the owners participating in the abutting lot program over the abatement period. The Taxpayers contended that they were entitled to 31.48 percent abatements to their land values, which, by their calculations, was the average discount that the abutting lot program participants received to their combined land values.

         [¶7] In May 2017, after deliberating, the Board voted unanimously to adopt a written decision granting the Taxpayers eight percent abatements to their land values-exclusive of any improvements-for each year during the abatement period in which they filed abatement requests. The Board explained that because the combined value of these abatements was equal to the total amount of taxes avoided by the abutting lot program participants during the abatement period, the eight percent figure provided each Taxpayer with a proportionate share of the total benefit of the program.

         [¶8] The Taxpayers appealed to the Superior Court, see 36 M.R.S. § 843 (2018); M.R. Civ. P. 80B, which entered a judgment vacating the Board's decision based on its conclusion that the Board's abatement formula was unreasonable because it made the percentage discount a function of the number of appealing Taxpayers. The court remanded the matter to the Board with instructions to provide the Taxpayers with abatements that would place them "in a position roughly equal to the favored abutting lot owners."

         [¶9] On remand from the Superior Court, the Board held an additional hearing where the parties mostly relied on the evidence introduced in the prior proceedings. The Taxpayers continued to assert that their proposal of 31.48 percent abatements was the most appropriate way to remedy the inequality. The Town maintained that the Board's decision to grant eight percent abatements was legally sufficient, but alternatively suggested a different method for calculating abatements to comply with the Superior Court's directions.

         [¶10] Following deliberations, the Board unanimously voted to adopt a written decision in June 2018. In its decision, the Board accepted "the Superior Court's conclusion that... [its] May 10, 2017 decision was unreasonable, and not in conformity with Maine law" and determined that the Taxpayers were entitled to 14.74 percent abatements to their land values. To reach that percentage, the Board made the following calculations for each year of the abatement period:

1. It divided the aggregate tax savings for abutting lot program participants by the number of program participants to calculate the average tax dollar savings per ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.