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Hall County appeals marinas tax ruling to state Supreme Court
Dispute over assessments heads to high court Tuesday in Atlanta

The Hall County Board of Tax Assessors is appealing a Superior Court ruling regarding five companies’ shoreline properties and their tax assessments, arguing a 2016 law strips the court’s power.

The board’s case will be argued at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Supreme Court of Georgia in Atlanta. The case involves Westrec Properties, PS Recreational Properties, Chattahoochee Parks, March First and AMP III-Lazy Days, all companies leasing marina property on Lake Lanier.

The marinas’ valuations jumped dramatically between 2014 and 2015 when the county considered docks and additions as real property instead of personal property. The increases ranged from 350 percent to 3,200 percent.

“We objected on the grounds that these are floating, movable docks on land owned by the (Army) Corps of Engineers,” the marinas’ attorney J. Ethan Underwood said. “How in the world can it be taxed as real property?”

The Hall County Board of Equalization upheld the county’s assessments, which led to an appeal in Superior Court.

House Bill 202, which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, requires a settlement conference be scheduled within 45 days of the appeal notice.

After the 45-day deadline expired, the marinas’ demanded the board list the 2014 value in the records, according to the court’s summary of the case.

Hall County Superior Court ruled in the marinas’ favor, which ordered the board to list the 2014 value.

The tax board’s attorney, Joseph Homans, said the main argument is the law violates the separation of powers by taking the court’s control over the tax appeal.

“It is our contention that that act itself didn’t apply to a 2015 appeal. We take the position that the tax appeal includes the appeal to Superior Court, and this tax appeal began when the taxpayers filed their appeals from the assessment, and all of that began before the statute was approved,” Homans said.

Underwood argued the court doesn’t have jurisdiction until the settlement conference has happened.