The Virginia Supreme Court handed a setback to the Northampton County and the Town of Cape Charles, reversing the ruling by Circuit Court of Northampton County against Robert Galloway. The Supreme Court ruled that the Northampton Circuit Court “abused its discretion in the exclusion of Restein and the
consequent dismissal of the case. The judgment is therefore reversed, and this case is remanded
for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.“
The General District erred in dismissing the case, and not allowing key witnesses to testify. According to the high court, the grounds used for dismissal, specifically the County’s noncompliance with Rule 4:1(b)(8), the trial court erred in hearing and granting the County and Town relief based upon the County’s motion.
The case was brought because there is substantial evidence that Northampton County (NC) failed to make assessments with uniformity from 2009 – 2014 and failed to comply with required professional standards in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Judge Lewis should not have dismissed the case he should have let Restein testify and used his reports. The County chose not to select an Expert. Why? The ruling to withhold Noble’s work was legitimate, as it was submitted late. However, the County Clerk’s office was way behind in recording transactions in 2006, 2007, 2008, etc., so Jason Restein’s work could not reach the same conclusions Noble did. The County chose to leave all valuations alone from 2008 (based on 2005 and 2006 sales – Wingate was selected in 2007 and his work was based on old data) until the 2013 Reassessment Year. Noble had to start from scratch under a very short window. Now that the County has spent more than $250,000, they will now have to spend another $200,000 to get an expert, testify and prepare reports for a trial at some date in the future. Experts are not inexpensive. The 2007 contracted appraiser Wingate from Roanoke only used a Mass Appraisal technique. According to Mr. Galloway, the North Tract subdivisions were unfinished, Wingate used South Tract finished subdivision sales, which is not comparable.
Background from the Virginia Constitution:
Article X. Taxation and Finance
Section 1. Taxable property; uniformity; classification and segregation.
All property, except as hereinafter provided, shall be taxed. All taxes shall be levied and collected under general laws and shall be uniform upon the same class of subjects within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax, except that the General Assembly may provide for differences in the rate of taxation to be imposed upon real estate by a city or town within all or parts of areas added to its territorial limits, or by a new unit of general government, within its area, created by or encompassing two or more, or parts of two or more, existing units of general government. Such differences in the rate of taxation shall bear a reasonable relationship to differences between non revenue-producing governmental services giving land urban character which are furnished in one or several areas in contrast to the services furnished in other areas of such unit of government.
The General Assembly may by general law and within such restrictions and upon such conditions as may be prescribed authorize the governing body of any county, city, town or regional government to provide for differences in the rate of taxation imposed upon tangible personal property owned by persons not less than sixty-five years of age or persons permanently and totally disabled as established by general law who are deemed by the General Assembly to be bearing an extraordinary tax burden on said tangible personal property in relation to their income and financial worth.
The General Assembly may define and classify taxable subjects. Except as to classes of property herein expressly segregated for either State or local taxation, the General Assembly may segregate the several classes of property so as to specify and determine upon what subjects State taxes, and upon what subjects local taxes, may be levied.
The amendment ratified November 6, 1990 and effective January 1, 1991—Added a new paragraph after paragraph one.
Section 2. Assessments.
All assessments of real estate and tangible personal property shall be at their fair market value, to be ascertained as prescribed by law. The General Assembly may define and classify real estate devoted to agricultural, horticultural, forest, or open space uses, and may by general law authorize any county, city, town, or regional government to allow deferral of, or relief from, portions of taxes otherwise payable on such real estate if it were not so classified, provided the General Assembly shall first determine that classification of such real estate for such purpose is in the public interest for the preservation or conservation of real estate for such uses. In the event the General Assembly defines and classifies real estate for such purposes, it shall prescribe the limits, conditions, and extent of such deferral or relief. No such deferral or relief shall be granted within the territorial limits of any county, city, town, or regional government except by ordinance adopted by the governing body thereof.