BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
FOR THE STATE OF WYOMING
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF )
WAL-MART STORES, INC. FROM )
A DECISION OF THE ALBANY COUNTY ) Docket No. 2002-143
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION -2002 )
PROPERTY VALUATION )
DECISION AND ORDER
Jason M. Tangeman, Anthony, Nicholas, Tangeman & Yates, LLC, for Wal-Mart Stores,
James P. Schermetzler, Deputy Albany County and Prosecuting Attorney, for Deborah
J. Nagel-Smith, Albany County Assessor, (Assessor).
This is an appeal from the Albany County Board of Equalization (County Board). The
State Board of Equalization (State Board), comprised of Roberta A. Coates, Chairman,
Alan B. Minier, Vice-Chairman and Tom Satterfield, Member, considered the hearing
record and decision of the County Board, briefs filed pursuant to a Briefing Order
(Locally Assessed Property) dated January 13, 2003, and oral arguments that were
heard on April 21, 2003. Mr. Satterfield joined the Board on May 1, 2003, and has
reviewed the transcript of oral argument. The Petitioner appealed a decision of the
County Board affirming the Albany County Assessor’s corrected 2002 valuation of the
real property and improvements of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. located at 4308 Grand
Avenue, Laramie, Albany County, Wyoming. The Assessor determined the value of the
subject property to be $11,571,000. Petitioner asks the State Board to remand this
case to the County Board with a directive that Petitioner’s property and improvements
be assessed at a value of $8,500,000. We affirm the County Board.
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COUNTY BOARD
The County Board conducted a hearing on September 12, 2002, with Hearing Officer
James Wolfe presiding. The Petitioner called one witness, John R. Sherman. The
Assessor called two witnesses, Deborah J. Smith and Cheri Anderle. Two volumes of
documents were admitted into the record.
The County Board’s findings of fact addressed the expert testimony offered on behalf of
the parties. In summary, the County Board found that the Assessor had employed an
appropriate valuation method uniformly and fairly, and that the value reached by the
Assessor correctly included the value of a security system placed in the building.
[County Board Record, pp. 369-372].
The County Board concluded, as a matter of law, that the Assessor employed an
authorized Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) method, and that the Petitioner
failed to establish that the method was not a rational method, equally applied and
resulting in essential fairness and a reasonable estimate of fair market value. The
County Board also found that the Petitioner did not show that the value offered by its
expert was more accurate or dependable than that of the Assessor. [County Board
Record, pp. 369-372].
The State Board is required to “hear appeals from county boards of equalization.” Wyo.
Stat. Ann. § 39-11-102.1(c). A timely appeal from the County Board decision was filed
with the State Board. Wyoming State Board of Equalization Rules, Chapter 3, §2.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
When the State Board hears appeals from a county board, it acts as an intermediate
level of appellate review. Laramie County Board of Equalization v. Wyoming State
Board of Equalization, 915 P.2d 1184, 1188 (Wyo. 1996); Union Pacific Railroad
Company v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 802 P.2d 856, 859 (Wyo. 1990). In
its appellate capacity, the State Board treats the county board as the finder of fact. Id.
In contrast, the State Board acts as the finder of fact when it hears contested cases on
appeal from final decisions of the Wyoming Department of Revenue. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §
39-11-102.1(c). This sharp distinction in roles is reflected in the State Board Rules
governing the two different types of proceedings. Compare Wyoming State Board of
Equalization Rules, Chapter 2 and Wyoming State Board of Equalization Rules, Chapter
3. Statutory language first adopted in 1995, when the Board of Equalization and the
Department of Revenue were reorganized into separate entities, does not express the
distinction between the State Board’s appellate and de novo capacities with the same
clarity as our long-standing Rules. 1995 Wyo. Sess. Laws, Chapter 209, Section 1,
By Rule, the State Board’s standards for review of a county board’s decision are nearly
identical to the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act standards which a district court
must apply to hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings of fact, and
conclusions of law. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §16-3-114(c)(ii). However, unlike a district court,
the Board will not rule on claims that a county board has acted “[c]ontrary to
constitutional right, power, privilege or immunity.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. §16-1-114(c)(ii)(B).
The State Board’s review is limited to a determination of whether the county board
(a) Arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in
accordance with law;
(b) In excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority or limitations or lacking
(c) Without observance of procedure required by law; or
(d) Unsupported by substantial evidence.
Wyoming State Board of Equalization Rules, Chapter 3, § 9.
Since the State Board Rules are patterned on the judicial review provision of the
Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act, we look to precedent under Wyo. Stat. Ann.
§16-3-114(c) for guidance. For example, we must apply this substantial evidence
Our task is to examine the entire record to determine if substantial
evidence exists to support the [county board’s] findings. We will not
substitute our judgment for that of the [county board] if [its] decision is
supported by substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is relevant
evidence which a reasonable mind might accept in support of the agency’s
Clark v. State ex rel. Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division, 934 P.2d
1269, 1272 (Wyo. 1997).
The Petitioner initially identified six defects in the County Board’s decision. [Petitioner’s
Notice of Appeal, pp. 4-5].
In its Opening Brief, the Petitioner restated these six issues into three:
1. Whether the Albany County Board of Equalization’s (CBOE) finding
that the County Assessor’s valuation of “fair market value” lacked statutory
right, and whether it was supported by substantial evidence and was not
arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or not otherwise in accordance
2. Whether the figures and characteristics employed by the Albany
County Assessor in the [Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal] model for the
appraisal of the subject property were supported by substantial evidence
and were not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or not otherwise
in accordance with law?
3. Whether the finding of the CBOE that the security system was a fixture
and not personal property was supported by substantial evidence and was
not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or not otherwise in
accordance with law?
[Petitioner’s Opening Brief, p. iv].
The County Board’s Brief did not materially disagree with these three issues. [County
Board’s Opening Brief, p. 5].
We have organized our review of the County Board decision around these three
FACTS PRESENTED TO THE COUNTY BOARD
1. Petitioner owns the Wal-Mart Supercenter (Wal-Mart) located at 4308 Grand
Avenue, Laramie, Albany County, Wyoming. [County Board Record, p. 36].
2. The Assessor issued an Assessment Notice for Petitioner’s property on April 25,
2002. [County Board Record, p. 15]. In response to an appeal received May 9, 2002,
the Assessor initiated a review of the property. [County Board Record, p. 35]. A
Revised Assessment Notice dated June 6, 2002, included these values:
Commercial Unplatted Land $ 191,300
Commercial Building Unplatted $11,379,700
Commercial Personal Property $ 2,607,741
[County Board Record, p. 36].
3. Petitioner appealed the Assessor’s revised valuation to the County Board on
June 13, 2002. [County Board Record, p. 44]. The appeal referred to the value of the
real estate, but not to personal property. [County Board Record, p. 44]. A hearing on
the appeal was held by the County Board on September 12, 2002. [Transcript, County
Board Record, pp. 116-356].
4. At the County Board hearing, Petitioner called one witness, John Sherman, an
experienced Wyoming-certified appraiser. [Transcript, County Board Record, pp. 146-151]. Sherman testified to a fee appraisal he had prepared for the subject property.
[Supplemental County Board Record, pp. 392-523]. The words “fee appraisal” mean
appraisal of properties one at a time, for pay. Glossary for Property Appraisal and
Assessment, International Association of Assessing Officers, 1997. Sherman employed
three approaches to reach his appraisal: the cost approach, the direct sales approach,
and the income approach. He reconciled the results of these approaches to reach an
estimate of value. [Supplemental County Board Record, pp. 443-444]. The appraisal
states that, “[t]he intended use of this appraisal is to aid in, or support decisions related
to the subject property as it relates to property tax liability.” [Supplemental County
Board Record, p. 404].
5. In Sherman’s opinion, the market value of Petitioner’s real property and
improvements on July 28, 2002, was $8,500,000. [Transcript, County Board Record, p.
6. Sherman excluded the building’s security system from his appraised value on the
grounds that the security system was personal property. He classified the security
system as personal property for the reason that it can be detached if the building is
resold, and often is. [Transcript, County Board Record, pp. 152, 172-173; Supplemental
County Board Record, p. 393]. The value of the security system was $840,500.
[Transcript, County Board Record, p. 231].
7. Sherman testified that the valuation date for his opinion was July 28, 2002, which
is the date Sherman first inspected Petitioner’s property. [Transcript, County Board
Record, pp. 232-233; County Board Record, p. 393]. When asked if his opinion was the
same for December 31, 2001, Sherman testified that he “generally” felt that it was.
[Transcript, County Board Record, p. 233].
8. To prepare the income approach for his valuation opinion, Sherman relied on
properties outside Albany County and the state of Wyoming, properties which the
Assessor was not able to use for her assessment of the property. [Transcript, County
Board Record, pp. 227-228, 238; Supplemental County Board Record pp. 454-464]. In
addition, several of the comparable properties used by the appraiser for rents involved
leases entered into after December 31, 2001. [Transcript, County Board Record, pp.
221-222; Supplemental County Board Record, p. 470].
9. Sherman acknowledged that if one of the properties he used as a comparable
sale, the 1997 sale of the Gateway Plaza in Laramie (the only Laramie sale he used in
his direct sales comparison), had been resold in 1999 the sale could have affected his
appraisal. [Transcript, County Board Record, pp. 203-204]. That property resold in
August, 1999 for approximately $12 per square foot more than the amount reflected in
Petitioner’s appraisal. [Transcript, County Board Record, pp. 327-328]. Sherman also
acknowledged that he could not have completed his direct sales comparison approach
using only similarly situated properties in Albany County, Wyoming. [Transcript, County
Board Record, pp. 226-227].
10. Sherman used the Marshall & Swift Cost Estimator system to compute a
replacement cost new, less depreciation for the building. [Transcript, County Board
Record, pp. 168-172]. Based on the Marshall & Swift definitions, he rated the quality of
construction as average, a ”2", and the condition of the property when he inspected it as
good. [Transcript, County Board Record, pp. 170, 229]. Sherman testified that this was
a fairly plain building, which he classified as a discount warehouse. [Transcript, County
Board Record, pp. 170-171]. Sherman also observed that the size of the store implied a
cheaper construction cost in terms of value per square foot. [Transcript, County Board
Record, p. 169].
11. Sherman acknowledged that he was not familiar with mass appraisal
methodology used by the county assessor, and is not an expert in that field. [Transcript,
County Board Record, pp. 183, 228].
12. The Assessor uses a mass appraisal system to value over 14,000 parcels in
Albany County in a single tax year. [Transcript, County Board Record, pp. 236, 256].
The words “mass appraisal” mean the process of valuing a group of properties as of a
given date, using standard methods, employing common data, and allowing for
statistical testing. Glossary for Property Appraisal and Assessment, International
Association of Assessing Officers, 1997.
13. The Assessor used the CAMA system to value commercial properties, including
Petitioner’s real property and improvements. CAMA relies on a replacement cost new,
less depreciation, approach. [Transcript, County Board Record, pp. 236-237]. The
Assessor used CAMA to ensure fair and equitable establishment of value and to ensure
that like properties are appraised using the same method. [Transcript, County Board
Record, p. 238].
14. The information used for the valuation of Petitioner’s property was collected by
an employee of the Assessor’s office, Cheri Anderle, who held a permanent certification
as a Property Tax Appraiser from the Department of Revenue and had taken several
appraisal courses, including one on commercial valuation. [Transcript, County Board
Record, pp. 255-256, 285; County Board Record, p. 5].
15. Anderle inspected and measured Petitioner’s property. [Transcript, County
Board Record, p. 258, 303]. The Assessor’s office then arrived at a grade for the quality
of construction, based on her inspection, on the definitions set forth in the CAMA
manual, on discussions with others in her office, and on discussions with Wal-Mart
representatives. [Transcript, County Board Record, pp. 264-265, 268-270].
16. The Assessor’s office assigned a “B -“ quality of construction grade based on
factors which distinguished the building from a large area, warehouse type of store like
Sam’s Club, and used that grade of construction for the CAMA calculations. The factors
included: 1) partitioned areas for separate businesses, including a pharmacy, a hair
salon, optical sales, a portrait studio, a bakery, and a deli; 2) areas with lowered
ceilings, such as the restaurant area; 3) storage and stockroom enclosures; 4) office
enclosures for security, management, and customer service; 5) a bank with a separate
cash counting room; 6) a meat handling and preparation area; 7) defined areas finished
to a higher grade than in warehouse stores, such as carpeting rather than tile in the
clothing area, painted finish on open beams, and goods displayed on shelving rather
than on stack pallets. [Transcript, County Board Record, pp. 264-265, 270-273, 312-315].
17. Anderle used the definitions provided in the Marshall & Swift Cost Estimator only
to check the CAMA system’s values. [Transcript, County Board Record, pp. 279-281].
18. The Assessor testified that her office exclusively uses CAMA to appraise
commercial property. [Transcript, County Board Record. p. 237]. CAMA does not have
modules for any method other than the replacement cost new, less depreciation
approach. [Transcript, County Board Record, p. 237]. The Assessor’s office is also
subject to practical constraints, such as the ability to gather information outside the
county and manpower limitations, which preclude the preparation of fee appraisals for
commercial properties. [Transcript, County Board Record, p. 238].
19. The process of assessing personal property begins with the Assessor generating
a form “ATD 25” which is sent out to businesses, on which taxpayers report their
personal property connected with the business that is being assessed. [Transcript,
County Board Record, pp. 261-263].
20. The Petitioner did not provide any evidence showing that it included the security
system as personal property on its “ATD 25” form. [Transcript, County Board Record,
pp. 261-263]. When asked during oral argument before the State Board whether or not
the security system was included by Petitioner as personal property, Petitioner’s
attorney stated that he had consulted with Petitioner prior to the hearing, but had not
been able to verify that the security system had been included on the ATD 25 form.
[Transcript of Oral Argument, pp. 28-29]. Counsel further acknowledged that the issue
had come up early. [Transcript of Oral Argument, p. 30].
21. The Assessor valued the security system as real property for two reasons.
Anderle did not find a definition for the security system as personal property in CAMA or
in Marshall & Swift. Anderle also observed that the security system attached to the
building with wires and components that were built into the building. [Transcript, County
Board Record, p. 319].
22. On cross examination, the Assessor testified to her view that a distinction may be
drawn between a mass appraisal of fair market value for taxation purposes, and a fee
appraisal ordered by a buyer, seller, or lender for such purposes as an estate appraisal
or loan. [Transcript, County Board Record, pp. 248-252]. She said that different
methods may be appropriate for somewhat different purposes. [Transcript, County
Board Record, p. 252]. At the same time, when challenged on cross examination by
Petitioner’s counsel, she denied “that the CAMA system does not assess fair market
value for commercial property.” [Transcript, County Board Record, p. 247].
23. Similarly, Anderle expressed her personal belief that using replacement cost
new, less depreciation will not necessarily give a true value of what someone may pay
for a parcel, but agreed that it is the value the Assessor relied on because it is the only
value the Assessor’s office can make uniform. [Transcript, County Board Record, pp.
334-335]. She was uncertain about whether a fee appraisal would more closely equate
to fair market value. [Transcript, County Board Record, p. 335].
24. The County Board denied Petitioner’s protest and affirmed the Assessor’s
corrected valuation of Petitioner’s property. The County Board issued its decision on
September 23, 2002. [County Board Record, pp. 369-372].
25. Petitioner appealed to the State Board by Notice of Appeal filed October 23,
2002. [County Board Record pp. 373-378].
26. Certain additional aspects of the record are addressed in the context of the
specific claims made by the Petitioner.
DISCUSSION OF APPLICABLE LAW AND PETITIONER’S ISSUES
27. Article 15, Section 11 of the Wyoming Constitution requires all property “be
uniformly assessed for taxation, and the legislature shall prescribe such regulations as
shall secure a just valuation of taxation of all property, real and personal.”
Early on, Justice Blume recognized a truth inherent in the area of property
valuation: ‘There is no such thing as absolute value. A stone cannot be
other than a stone, but one man may give a different valuation to a piece
of land than another.’ Bunten v. Rock Springs Grazing Ass’n, 29 Wyo.
461, 475, 215 P. 244, 248 (1923). Accordingly, this court has consistently
interpreted Wyo. Const. Art. 15, § 11 to require ‘only a rational method [of
appraisal], equally applied to all property which results in essential
Basin Electric Power Coop. v. Dept. of Revenue, 970 P.2d 841, 857 (Wyo.1998)
quoting: Holly Sugar Corp. v. State Board of Equalization, 839 P.2d 959, 964
28. Broken into its component parts, the constitutional standard requires (1) a
rational method; (2) equally applied to all property; and (3) essential fairness. It is the
burden of one challenging an assessment to prove by a preponderance of the evidence
that at least one of these elements has not been fulfilled. Basin Electric Power Corp.,
970 P.2d at 852.
29. All property must be valued annually at fair market value. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §39-13-103(b)(ii). Further, all taxable property must be valued and assessed for taxation in
the name of the owner of the property on January 1. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §39-13-103(b)(i)(A).
30. Fair market value is defined as:
The amount in cash, or terms reasonably equivalent to cash, a well
informed buyer is justified in paying for a property, and a well informed
seller is justified in accepting, assuming neither party to the transaction is
acting under undue compulsion, and assuming the property has been
offered in the open market for a reasonably time.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-101(a)(vi).
31. The legislature, in turn, has required the Department of Revenue (Department) to
“prescribe by rule and regulation the appraisal methods and systems for determining
fair market value using generally accepted appraisal standards,” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(ii), and required assessors to “[f]aithfully and diligently follow and apply”
those rules for the appraisal and assessment of all taxable property. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §
32. The Department has promulgated rules prescribing the methods for valuing
property. The acceptable methods include a sales comparison approach, a cost
approach, an income or capitalized earning approach, and the CAMA system.
Wyoming Department of Revenue Rules, Chapter 9, § 6 (a), (b), (c), and (d).
33. An Assessor’s valuation is presumed valid, accurate, and correct. This
presumption survives until overturned by credible evidence. Teton Valley Ranch v.
State Board of Equalization, 735 P.2d 107, 113 (Wyo. 1987). A mere difference of
opinion as to value is not sufficient to overcome the presumption. J. Ray McDermott &
Co. v. Hudson, 370 P.2d 364, 370 (Wyo. 1962). The presumption is especially valid
where the Assessor valued the property according to the Department’s Rules and
Regulations, rules which provide for the use of the CAMA system in the assessment of
real property. Wyoming Department of Revenue Rules, Chapter 9 § 6(b), (d).
34. The Wyoming Supreme Court has recognized the validity of valuations derived
from the CAMA system. Gray v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 896. P.2d 1347
(Wyo. 1995). In fact, the Wyoming Supreme Court rejected the use of actual sales
price for properties in favor of the value established by the CAMA system because of
the equality and uniformity derived by its use. Id. at 1351.
35. Each of the three issues raised by the Petitioner turn on the question of whether
or not there is substantial evidence in the record that reasonably supports the County
Board decision. In determining whether or not there is substantial evidence in the
record, the State Board will not substitute its judgment for findings reasonably
supported by evidence in the County Board record. Laramie County Board of
Equalization v. State Board of Equalization, 915 P.2d 1184, 1188-1189; Holly Sugar
Corp. v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 839 P.2d 959, (Wyo. 1992); Amax Coal
v. State Board of Equalization, 819 P.2d 825 (Wyo. 1991); Sage Club, Inc. Employment
Sec. Comm’n., 601 P.2d 1306, 1310 (Wyo. 1979). While substantial evidence may be
less than the weight of the evidence, it cannot be clearly contrary to the overwhelming
weight of the evidence. The Wyoming Supreme Court has stated, “[s]ubstantial
evidence is a term of art best described as relevant evidence that a reasonable mind
can accept as adequate support for an agency’s conclusion. Sidwell v. State Workers’
Compensation Div., 977 P.2d 60, 63 (Wyo. 1999).
A. Whether CAMA arrived at fair market value
36. Petitioner first contends that the Assessor admitted the CAMA system did not
arrive at a “fair market value” for Petitioner’s property and improvements. Since use of
the CAMA system is prescribed by the Rules of the Department of Revenue, there is no
serious contention that the Assessor’s action was in any way arbitrary, or otherwise
contrary to law. This issue, as well as the other two that have been presented by the
Petitioner, therefore turns on whether the County Board’s decision is supported by
37. Petitioner relies heavily on the cross-examination of the Assessor and her
employee, which Petitioner characterizes as a concession that CAMA does not reach
fair market value. We have reviewed the record as well as the exchanges between
Petitioner’s counsel and the Assessor, and Petitioner’s counsel and Anderle. Supra., ¶¶
22 and 23. We conclude the evidence does not support Petitioner’s assertion. The
Assessor did reach an opinion of the fair market value for Petitioner’s property and
improvements. Read as a whole, the evidence only highlights the differences between
what a fee appraiser does and what an assessor does to arrive at an opinion of the fair
market value for a property. We also note that Mr. Sherman’s fee appraisal was
expressly prepared for the purpose of addressing “property tax liability”, supra., ¶4, so
that the Assessor and Mr. Sherman were both considering fair market value in the same
38. The County Board was justified in concluding that Petitioner did not demonstrate
that Sherman’s fee appraisal was “more accurate or dependable than that offered by
the Assessor.” [County Board Record p. 371, Conclusions of Law, ¶4]. Sherman did
not hold himself out as being familiar with mass appraisal or the constraints that an
assessor must face in using a mass appraisal method. Sherman therefore could mount
no effective criticism of the Assessor’s use of CAMA, and relied merely on the fact that
he had reached a different conclusion using the method he preferred. Further,
Sherman acknowledged that using similarly situated properties in Albany County,
Wyoming, he could not have completed his appraisal. Supra., ¶ 11. Sherman also
valued the real property and improvements as of July 28, 2002, supra., ¶ 6, rather than
January 1, the statutorily prescribed date to determine the fair market value of property.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. §39-13-103(b)(i)(A). It is also clear that Sherman’s information as to
one sale of significant value was outdated. Supra., ¶ 8.
39. The County Board was likewise justified in concluding that the Assessor’s
valuation was reached by a rational method of appraisal, equally applied to all like
property which resulted in essential fairness and a reasonable estimate of the fair
market value of the subject property. [County Board Record p. 371, Conclusions of
Law, ¶4]. The Assessor testified both as to the use of the CAMA method, and to the
reasons why her office did not prepare a fee appraisal of its own for Petitioner’s
commercial property. Supra., ¶17. Sherman and the Assessor used different
definitions in classifying the building’s quality of construction. Sherman, using the
Marshall Swift definitions, assigned a “2" to the property and Assessor, using the CAMA
manual definitions, assigned a “B-“ to the property. Supra., ¶¶ 9, 15. Our review of the
record leads us to conclude that the Anderle was somewhat more thoughtful in the
application of the quality of construction definitions than Sherman was. Supra., ¶¶ 10,
15, 16. Finally, the information on actual costs provided by the Petitioner to Petitioner’s
appraiser was different than the information provided to the Assessor. [Transcript,
County Board Record, pp. 276-277, 295-296].
40. We conclude that Petitioner’s first claim reflects a difference of opinion that has
resulted from the use of two different methods. A mere difference of opinion is not
enough to overcome the presumption in favor of the Assessor’s valuation. J. Ray
McDermott & Co., 370 P.2d at 370. As important, the record demonstrates the
existence of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind can accept as adequate support
for the County Board’s conclusion. The record is therefore supported by substantial
B. The quality of construction of Petitioner’s building
41. Petitioner’s second argument is that the figures and characteristics entered into
the CAMA model by the Assessor to reach the assessment figure were inaccurate. The
Petitioner’s arguments turn on the quality of construction, and attacks on the Assessor’s
treatment of the smaller stores within the large facility. [Petitioner’s Opening Brief, pp.
42. Petitioner contends that the proper grade for the quality of construction of the
commercial property should have been a “C” and not a “B-.” To address each of
Petitioner’s main points:
1) Although the Assessor had never graded the quality of original construction
for a discount department store as defined by CAMA, she was properly qualified to
grade such buildings. Supra at ¶ 14.
2) The definitions set forth in the CAMA manual were relied on by the Assessor
in grading the building, supra at ¶ 15, and evidence supporting the classification of the
Wal-Mart as above average construction for a discount or market store was presented
at the County Board hearing. Supra at ¶ 16.
3) Petitioner contends that the Assessor was incorrect in determining the
eyeglass center was a “medical center.” This contention based on the definitions
provided by the Marshall & Swift Cost Estimator. However, the Assessor used the
CAMA system and relied on the definitions set forth in its manual to value Petitioner’s
property. Supra at ¶ 15. The Marshall & Swift Cost Estimator was only used by the
Assessor to double check the CAMA system’s values. [County Board Record, p. 164-165]. The CAMA system is both an accepted method by which to assess property, and
a prescribed method. Wyoming Department of Revenue Rules, Chapter 9 § 6(b), (d).
The County Board understandably accepted the Assessor’s approach.
43. Sherman’s testimony was heavily oriented to the premise that the building was
simply a big box, discount warehouse type of store. Supra., ¶10. The facts observed
by the Assessor’s employee on inspection of the building conflict with this assessment.
Supra., ¶16. Anderle’s testimony provided a sufficient basis for the County Board to
doubt Sherman’s conclusions.
44. From our review of the record, we conclude that the Petitioner did not offer
evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption in favor of the Assessor’s valuation.
There is also substantial evidence supporting the figures and characteristics used by
the Assessor and entered into the CAMA system to reach the assessed value.
C. The security system
45. Petitioner’s third contention is that the Assessor erred in classifying Petitioner’s
security system as being affixed to the real estate, rather than personal property. The
only testimony of Sherman on this issue was essentially an argument based on
Sherman’s view of a general principle. Supra., ¶6. Sherman’s testimony was not
supported by reference to the personal property reported by the Petitioner to the
Assessor on form ATD 25, or by enquiry to representatives or employees of the
Petitioner. This alone would justify County Board in discounting Sherman’s testimony.
46. During oral argument, Petitioner’s counsel conceded that the security system
ought to be taxed as either part of the real estate, or as personal property. [Transcript
of Oral Argument, p. 31]. We agree. This being so, Petitioner bore some responsibility
for assuring that the system was reported to the Assessor with sufficient clarity to
assure that a timely and correct classification of the property could be made. In fact,
the Petitioner failed to clearly identify the security system on the ATD 25 form used to
report personal property for assessment. It is reasonable to expect that an item valued
at $840,500 would be specifically identified on Petitioner’s report of personal property,
but there is no such listing, even though there are listings for items valued as little as
$13 after adjustments. [County Board Record, pp. 48-50]. The absence of a specific
listing for the security system independently supports an inference that the security
system was not included in the personal property report, and would therefore have
escaped taxation if it were not included in the value of the commercial real estate.
47. Part of the Assessor’s reason for classifying the security system as real estate
was her observation of the manner in which the system was integrated into the
construction of the building. Supra., ¶21. In determining when personal property
becomes a fixture, one is guided by the following test:
“It has been said on abundant authority that, generally speaking, the
proper criterion of an irremovable fixture consists in the united application
of three tests, viz:
‘1st. Real or constructive annexation of the article in
question to the realty; 2nd. Appropriate or adaptation to the
use or purpose of that part of the realty with which it is
connected; and 3rd. The intention of the party making the
annexation to make the article a permanent accession to the
freehold, this intention being inferred form the nature the
article affixed, the relation and situation of the party making
the annexation and policy of law in relation thereto, the
structure and mode of annexation and the purpose or use of
which the annexation has been made…’ [citations.]***.”
Holland Furnace Co. V. Bird, 45 Wyo. 471, 2 P2d 825, 827-828 (1933)
Wyoming State Farm Loan Bd. v. FCSCC, 759 P.2d 1230, 1234 (Wyo. 1988); Wagner
v. First Wyo. Bank of N.A. Laramie, 784 P.2d 224, 227 (Wyo. 1989).
48. While Petitioner’s witness testified that in most cases a security system could be
removed without damaging the property, supra., ¶ 10, the Assessor presented evidence
establishing that Petitioner’s security system is very attached to the building with wires
and components that are built into the building, supra., ¶ 21. Substantial evidence of
annexation was presented to the County Board.
49. No evidence was presented to the County Board that the security system was
not appropriate or adapted to the use or purpose of the realty, to provide security for the
50. The most important factor is the intention of the person making the annexation.
Holland Furnace Co. v. Bird, 21 P.2d 825, 827-828 (Wyo. 1933). The Wyoming
Supreme Court follows a majority of jurisdictions in placing the most emphasis on the
intention of the person making the annexation. Wyoming State Farm Loan Bd. v.
FCSCC, supra. 759 P.2d at 1234. Because Petitioner did not establish that the security
system was reported as personal property, the County Board could infer that Petitioner
intended the property to be a fixture.
51. There is substantial evidence in the record to support to support the County
Board’s acceptance of the Assessor’s valuation of Petitioner’s security system as part of
Petitioner’s real property and improvements. We also conclude that the Petitioner did
not offer evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption in favor of the Assessor’s
52. Based on the record before us, we conclude there is substantial evidence to
support the decision of the County Board on all three points. We decline to substitute
our judgment of the facts for that of the County Board. We likewise conclude that on all
three points the Petitioner did not overcome the presumption in favor of the Assessor’s
53. The decision of the County Board affirming the Assessor’s corrected value of
Petitioner’s property was supported by substantial evidence, was in accordance with
procedures required by law, and was neither arbitrary, capricious nor inconsistent with
THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK
IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED that the Albany County Board of
Equalization Order denying the Petitioner’s protest and affirming the 2002 assessment
of Petitioner’s property located at 4308 Grand Avenue, Laramie, Albany County,
Wyoming is affirmed.
Pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 16-3-114 and Rule 12, Wyoming Rules of Appellate
Procedure, any person aggrieved or adversely affected in fact by this decision
may seek judicial review in at the appropriate district court by filing a petition for
review within 30 days of the date of this decision.
Dated this 21st day of July, 2003
STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
Roberta A. Coates, Chairman
Alan B. Minier, Vice-Chairman
Thomas R. Satterfield
Wendy J. Soto, Executive Secretary