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Montage Marketing, LLC v. Washoe County ex rel. Washoe County Board of Equalization

Supreme Court of Nevada

May 31, 2018

MONTAGE MARKETING, LLC, F/K/A MONTAGE MARKETING CORPORATION, A DELAWARE LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY, Appellant,
v.
WASHOE COUNTY EX REL. WASHOE COUNTY BOARD OF EQUALIZATION; AND WASHOE COUNTY ASSESSOR JOHN WILSON, Respondents.

          Appeal from a district court order denying a petition for judicial review in a property tax matter. First Judicial District Court, Carson City; James Todd Russell, Judge.

          Maupin, Cox & LeGoy and Rick R. Hsu and Debra O. Waggoner, Reno, for Appellant.

          Christopher J. Hicks, District Attorney, and Herbert B. Kaplan, Deputy District Attorney, Washoe County, for Respondents.

          BEFORE CHERRY, HARDESTY and PARRAGUIRRE, JJ.

          OPINION

          HARDESTY, J.

         In this appeal, we consider the appropriate method for assessing the taxable value of fully developed but unsold condominium units held by the developer. This case arises from a decision by the State Board of Equalization finding that the county assessor properly assessed each unsold condominium unit based on its retail price. Appellant Montage Marketing, LLC, contends that, because the condominium building qualifies as a subdivision, the unsold condominium units instead should have been valued together as a single unit and discounted to determine the net sellout or wholesale value to a single buyer, which would result in a significantly lower assessment value.

         This appeal requires us to interpret two statutory provisions: NRS 361.227(2)(b), which pertains to valuation of parcels in a qualified subdivision, and NRS 361.227(5)(c), which permits the "discounted cash flow" method to be used for assessing the full cash value of real property. We conclude that neither of these statutory provisions required the county assessor to value the condominium units as a single unit or to apply the discounted cash flow method to determine their full cash value. We thus affirm the district court's order denying judicial review of the State Board of Equalization's decision.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This appeal involves tax assessment valuations for the tax years 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 for the Montage, a 21-story luxury condominium development located in downtown Reno in Washoe County. The condominium building was converted from a hotel and subdivided into 376 residential units with 11 different floor plans. The individual residential units were fully developed by February 2009, and the first units were sold to individual purchasers in March 2009. As of May 2009, 30 out of the 376 units were sold, and only 3 more units were sold as of February 2010. The unsold units remained under the common ownership of appellant Montage Marketing, LLC (Montage) and continued to be marketed as individual residential units for sale.

         The Washoe County Assessor (Assessor) determined the taxable value of the unsold condominiums owned by Montage to be $86, 804, 500 for the 2009-2010 tax year and $71, 120, 370 for the 2010-2011 tax year. In assessing the condominiums, the Assessor followed the process prescribed under NRS 361.227. First, the Assessor calculated the full cash value of the land of each condominium. Because the condominium building qualified as a subdivision under NRS 361.227(2)(b), the Assessor applied a discount to the value of the land based on its expected absorption period- the number of years it would take for all of the units to be sold or otherwise absorbed into the market. Next, the Assessor calculated the taxable value of the improvements of each condominium. Then, to ensure that the taxable value of each condominium did not exceed its full cash value, the Assessor utilized the sales comparison method permitted by NRS 361.227(5) and reduced the taxable value of each condominium to 90 percent of its list price.

         Montage sought review with the Washoe County Board of Equalization, arguing that the assessed taxable value of the unsold condominiums exceeded their full cash value. The County Board upheld the Assessor's valuations, and Montage appealed that decision to the State Board of Equalization (the State Board).

         At the hearing before the State Board, Montage contended that the Assessor should have valued the condominium units collectively as one unit to derive a wholesale or net sellout value, which is what the unsold condominiums would be worth if sold in bulk to a single investor. Montage presented a report from its own appraiser, which calculated the full cash value of the unsold condominiums at $40, 350, 000 for the 2009-2010 tax year and $24, 000, 000 for the 2010-2011 tax year based on the net sellout values. The appraiser's report explained that these values were reached by first assessing the aggregate retail prices of all the condominium units and then, because the units would likely not be sold for a period of years, applying a discounted cash flow analysis to determine the present value of the condominium units to a single buyer. Montage argued that, because the condominium building qualified as a subdivision under NRS 361.227(2)(b), the Assessor was required to view the condominiums as a single unit and to discount the value of the entire property-both land and improvements-to determine the full cash value.

         The Assessor argued that Montage's method of appraisal was improper because Montage was marketing each condominium to individual buyers and not to a single investor and thus the proper valuation method was what each condominium was worth if sold individually. The Assessor agreed that the condominiums qualified as a subdivision under NRS 361.227(2)(b), but asserted that the subdivision discount only applied to land and not to the valuation of any improvements on the land.

         The State Board upheld the Assessor's valuations. The State Board acknowledged that under NRS 361.227(2)(b), a subdivision discount methodology must be used to assess the taxable value of parcels that comprise a qualified subdivision. The State Board found that the Assessor had appropriately applied a subdivision discount of 50 percent to the land and that both the land and improvements had been appraised at the proper taxable value for both tax years.

         Montage filed a petition for judicial review in the district court. The district court upheld the State Board's ...


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