Airport property may properly be designated as open space.
According to the Supreme Court of Connecticut, property containing a commercial airport is eligible for open space classification.
Goodspeed Airport, LLC (Goodspeed) owned a 57-acre parcel of land that was valued at $2,354,020 with a tax assessment of $1,646,810. Fourteen acres of the parcel contained a commercial utility airport that existed at the location since 1964. The remaining 43 acres contained open fields located entirely within a flood plain.
On October 1, 2003, Goodspeed filed an application to have the 43-acre portion designated and assessed as open space pursuant to Connecticut statute. The assessor for the Town of East Haddam (Town) denied the application. Goodspeed filed an appeal seeking to classify the entire 57-acre parcel as open space.
The Appellate Court of Connecticut concluded that Goodspeed failed to show that refusal to classify its property as open space resulted in an overassessment, and that the portion of its land containing the airport was ineligible for open space classification. On appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Goodspeed argued, first, that the appellate court improperly concluded the airport parcel was ineligible for open space classification, and second, that the Town's improper assessment of the parcel at fair market value constituted aggrievement because the parcel should be designated as open space, thereby subjecting it to different tax assessment.
Concerning Goodspeed's first argument, the court looked to the Town's conservation and development plan adopted in 1982, which designated seven specific areas as open space. The plan included a map, which determined whether a particular piece of property was located within an area designated for open space classification. The plan, read in conjunction with the map, led the court to determine that Goodspeed's airport parcel was located within an area designated as open space, and therefore eligible for open space classification.
Had the Town's assessor determined that there was an adverse change in condition between the time of the plan's adoption and the date of classification, the assessor could have properly excluded Goodspeed's airport parcel from open space classification. Finding, however, that the parcel was eligible for open space classification, the court remanded the case for determination whether such an adverse change in the condition of the parcel had occurred.
With respect to Goodspeed's second argument, the court found that the assessor's wrongful refusal to classify the parcel as open space led to an excessive valuation of the property. The Town's assessment of the land for commercial use was contrary to the mandate to assess as open space.
Goodspeed Airport, LLC v. Town of East Haddam
August 16, 2011
24 A.3d 1205 (Conn.)