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Karmel v. Assessor of City of White Plains

Supreme Court, Westchester County

July 20, 2012

C.A. Karmel, AS TRUSTEE OF THE SASSOWER FAMILY TRUST, AND DORIS L. SASSOWER, Petitioners,
v.
The Assessor of the City of White Plains, THE BOARD OF ASSESSMENT REVIEW OF THE CITY OF WHITE PLAINS, AND THE CITY OF WHITE PLAINS, Respondents.

Joseph Albert, Esq.

John G. Callahan, Esq.

HON. WILLIAM J. GIACOMO, J.S.C.

Petitioners bring this application seeking a refund from defendants of all property taxes paid since 2002 in connection with the alleged illegal increase in the property's assessment in 2002 plus interest.

A hearing was held before the Court on March 19, 2012 and the parties submitted memoranda of law thereafter. The Court now renders the following decision:

Petitioners own real property in the City of White Plains. The premises is an approximately 4.5 acre parcel improved with a forty-nine thousand seven hundred twenty-two (49, 722) cubic foot structure. The structure contains eight bedrooms, seven bathrooms, two living rooms, a kitchen, ballroom and breakfast room. Petitioner's property is located in a single family residential zone and is classified as a single family residence (classification code 210) by the residential code established by the New York State Office of Real Property.

At some point prior to 2002, respondents, Assessor of the City of White Plains, the Board of Assessment review of the City of White Plains, and the City of White Plains (hereinafter collectively "respondents"), allege that the subject property was used as a bed and breakfast, a use that respondents contend continues today. Respondents' position is supported by a 2007 decision in White Plains City Court, in which the Court, (Friia, J.) found petitioner in violation of the White Plains Zoning Ordinance.

On the 2002 White Plains final assessment roll, the Assessor for White Plains assessed the subject property for $70, 000. Prior to this filing, petitioners' property had been assessed for $44, 575. Respondents contend that the increase in assessment was a result of reclassifying the property from a single family residential use to a commercial use classification entitled inns, lodges, boarding and rooming houses, tourist homes, fraternity and sorority houses (classification code 418). Petitioners contend the only reason for the reassessment in 2002 was because of this change in use.

Petitioners claim that the property is used only occasionally as a bed-and-breakfast and this is not an improper use of a single family home. Therefore, the reclassification was improper and could not serve as a basis for the assessment increase in 2002. Petitioners further allege that since no physical change was made to the property in 2002 and, there was no citywide reassessment that year, the reassessment violated §305(2) of New York Real Property Tax Law ("RPTL") and constituted "selective reassessment" in violation of the New York and United States Constitution.

Petitioners seek a refund of all property taxes paid since 2002 as a result of the illegal increase in the property's assessment that year together with interest.

The Issue:

The issue to be decided by the Court is whether a change in use classification of real property from residential to commercial constitutes a rational basis for reassessment of a single parcel of real property absent a citywide reassessment, and thus, is not "selective reassessment" in violation of Real Property Tax Law § 305(2), Article I §11 of the New York State Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

In rendering its decision, the Court reviewed the following statutes which read, in relevant part: New York Real Property Tax Law § 305(2):

All real property in each assessing unit shall be assessed at a uniform percentage of value (fractional assessment) (NY Real Prop. ...

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