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Ga. Supreme Court rules in favor of marinas after huge 2015 hike in property valuations

The Hall County Board of Tax Assessors must uphold the lower 2014 tax assessment values on five Hall County marina operators, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled Monday.

Tax assessments on the properties jumped in 2015 between 350 and 3,200 percent.

The court ruled the board filed its settlement conference notice too late, meaning the Hall County Superior Court was right to grant the marinas the lower tax assessment value.

The case involved the 2015 tax assessments of Westrec Properties, PS Recreational Properties, Chattahoochee Parks, March First and AMP III-Lazy Days, which respectively represent Sunrise Cove and Snug Harbor Marinas, Holiday Marina, Aqualand Marina, Gainesville Marina and Lazy Days Marina.

The marinas’ valuations jumped dramatically between 2014 and 2015 when the county considered docks and additions as real property instead of personal property.

The marinas’ attorney J. Ethan Underwood said his clients believed the floating and movable docks should have been taxed as personal property, leading to the initial appeal.

A law effective Jan. 1, 2016, amended the Georgia code regarding ad valorem tax assessment appeals, which must first go to the Board of Equalization for an appeal. That board upheld the higher assessments for the marinas.

Within 45 days of receiving an appeal on the Board of Equalization’s ruling and “before certification of the appeal to the Superior Court, the county board of tax assessors shall send to the taxpayer notice that a settlement conference” will be held, according to the code.

If there is no settlement conference notice, then the appeal is terminated and the taxpayer’s stated value is entered into the records.

The notice of appeal to Hall County Superior Court came in January 2016, but the board did not respond to the notice within the timeframe. The board did, however, deny a March 2016 demand letter by the companies to enter the 2014 values into the board’s records. In June 2016, the board sent a letter to schedule a settlement conference.