Court Approves 5 Percent Valuation Discount For Environmental Contamination.

At issue in this case was the proper determination of the fair market value of the plaintiff's 229.24-acre commercial property for property tax purposes.  110 acres of the tract contained buildings and other improvements with the balance of the tract considered to be "excess" land.  The tract had been previously used by the U.S. Navy to operate a weapons manufacturing plant where they buried numerous contaminants which resulted in significant environmental damage to the tract.  The tract became subject to an environmental remediation agreement under which the plaintiff was partly responsible for remediation costs.  In 2003, the defendant notified the plaintiff of its intent to increase the tract's property tax assessment.  The plaintiff filed an appeal with the county Board, which affirmed.  The matter then proceeded to court which affirmed.  On further review, the appellate court affirmed in part and vacated and remanded in part.  The appellate court noted that an appraisal must be based on the tract's current status, considering it's potential for development, and that the trial court's reliance on one of the experts was not supported by the evidence.  The appellate court also noted that restrictions on the tract impacted the tract's market value.  The appellate court vacated the trial court's order and remanded the case for calculation of the assessed value with consideration of the plaintiff's environmental obligations.  On further review, the state (PA) Supreme Court upheld an appraiser's opinion that the value of the tract was fair market value less five percent for environmental "stigma."  Harley-Davidson Motor Company v. Springettsbury Township, et al., No. 82 MAP 2014, 2015 Pa. LEXIS 2170 (Pa. Sup. Ct. Sept. 29, 2015).