IN THE MATTER OF APPEAL OF: Parkdale Mills and Parkdale America from the decisions of the Davidson County Board of Equalization and Review concerning the valuation of certain real property for the tax year 2007
Heard in the Court of Appeals November 19, 2014
From the North Carolina Property Tax Commission, No. 07 PTC 375.
Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP, by Charles C. Meeker and Jamie S. Schwedler, for respondent.
Bell, Davis & Pitt, PA, by John A. Cocklereece, Jr., and Justin M. Hardy, for taxpayer.
North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, by Amy Bason and Casandra Skinner, for amicus curiae.
BRYANT, Judge. Judge DIETZ concurs. Judge DILLON concurs by separate opinion.
Appeal by respondent Davidson County from final
decision on second remand entered 8 April 2014 by the North Carolina Property
Where a directive of this Court instructs a lower tribunal that the lower tribunal " shall conduct hearings as necessary," the plain language of such a directive indicates that the lower tribunal may, but is not required to, conduct additional hearings. Where the Property Tax Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence, the decision will be affirmed upon appeal, despite the presence of contrary evidence in the record.
Parkdale Mills and Parkdale America (" taxpayer" ) own two textile manufacturing plants in Davidson County (" the County" ). In January 2007, the County assessed the value of taxpayer's Lexington plant at $6,776,160.00 and the value of the Thomasville Plant at $3,620,080.00. In contrast, taxpayer's expert appraiser valued the properties at $905,000.00 and $625,000.00, respectively. Upon appeal by taxpayer to the County's Board of Equalization and Review (" the Review Board" ), the appraised values were reduced to $5,040,429.00 and $3,287,150.00, respectively. Taxpayer then appealed to the North Carolina Property Tax Commission (" the Commission" ) which, after a hearing, affirmed the Review Board's assessments of taxpayer's buildings on 3 November 2009.
Taxpayer appealed to this Court, which found that taxpayer had demonstrated that the County's appraisal values were arbitrary, capricious, or illegal, and that the burden of showing that these values were still proper had shifted to the County. This Court then found that the Commission had failed to properly apply the burden-shifting framework as required by not making findings of fact and conclusions of law showing how the County's valuations were still proper despite evidence that these values were arbitrary, capricious, or illegal. We therefore vacated and remanded this case to the Commission with instructions that it " may conduct additional hearings on this matter if it deems them necessary." In re Appeal of Parkdale Am., 212 N.C.App. 192, 198, 710 S.E.2d 449, 453 (2011) (" Parkdale I " ) (emphasis added). The Commission was further instructed that, upon remand, it " shall make specific findings of fact and conclusions of law explaining how it weighed the evidence to reach its conclusions using the burden-shifting framework" as articulated in the opinion. Id.
Upon remand, no additional hearings were conducted, but a new final decision was entered. By final decision upon remand, entered 23 May 2012, the Commission re-affirmed the appraisal values of taxpayer's plants at $5,040,429.00 and $3,287,150.00, respectively. Taxpayer again appealed the Commission's decision to this Court, which agreed with taxpayer that the Commission had again failed " to alleviate this Court's lack of confidence that the County has, in fact, carried its burden." In re Parkdale Mills & Parkdale Am., __ N.C.App. __, __, 741 S.E.2d 416, 421 (2013) (" Parkdale II " ). This Court went on to note in Parkdale II that
[a]lthough we make no finding on appeal here regarding the true value of the property, this Court is troubled by the substantial discrepancy between [taxpayer's] assessed value and the County's assessed value. On remand, the Commission shall conduct additional hearings as necessary and make further findings of fact and conclusions of law in order to reconcile this discrepancy. If the County cannot carry its assigned burden, or if the Commission again fails to rectify the inadequacies of its Final Decision, this Court may exercise its prerogative to remand for yet a third time with specific instructions for the Commission to adopt [taxpayer's] valuation of the property as, unlike the County's valuation, it has not been held to be " arbitrary."
Id. at, 741 S.E.2d at 422 (citation omitted) (emphasis added).
On second remand to the Commission, taxpayer filed a motion to limit the scope of the hearing to the record created during the initial hearing and as presented to this Court in Parkdale I. By order entered 16 October, the Commission granted taxpayer's motion.
After conducting a hearing on 19 November, the Commission issued ...