Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Gregory M. Culet, District Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: W. Jones, Justice
The decision of the district court is affirmed. No attorneys fees are awarded. Costs are awarded to Respondents.
Walter and Judith Kimbrough appeal the district court's decision affirming the Canyon County Board of Equalization's assessment of their farm and homesite. They contend that the Canyon County Assessor should have applied the agricultural-land exemption to the acre on which their farmhouse sits rather than classifying it as a homestead. They also assert that their homesite valuation was excessive.
II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
In 2004, Walter and Judith Kimbrough, Appellants, purchased a small farm in rural Canyon County, Idaho. Of their parcel, 0.66 acres underlie a public right-of-way and are exempt from taxation, leaving 14.76 subject to assessment. The Kimbroughs have dedicated most of their land to growing alfalfa, but just over two acres contain agricultural outbuildings and the Kimbroughs' home. The Canyon County Assessor apparently always exempted 13.76 acres of the Kimbroughs' farm from taxation under I.C. § 63-604, which allows an exemption for land actively devoted to agriculture. It then assessed at market value the remaining acre, which included the Kimbroughs' house (the "homesite").*fn1 Between 2002 and 2006, the Assessor had valued the entire property at $209,200, but in 2007 the total assessment more than doubled to $419,200. The County attributed nearly all of the added assessment to the increased value of the homesite and residential improvements.
The Kimbroughs appealed their 2007 property-tax assessment to the Canyon County Board of Equalization and then to the Idaho Board of Tax Appeals (the "BTA"), both of whom are Respondents in this case, but both affirmed the assessment. They next appealed to the district court, which held a trial de novo on the valuation the County applied to the homesite. The district court issued findings from the bench, which it augmented later in the Amended Supplemental Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. The court held that the County was correct to value the one-acre homesite and residential improvements at market value separately from the Kimbroughs' agricultural acreage and that the valuation was not arbitrary or discriminatory.
On appeal, the Kimbroughs argue that the Idaho Tax Commission's regulations illegally require counties to assess at market value homesites that are contiguous with property that is agriculturally exempt under I.C. § 63-604. They assert that homesites should be subject to the agricultural-land exemption. Alternatively, they challenge the comparable sales the County relied upon in valuing their homesite. Respondents counter that only land actually devoted to agriculture can be exempt under I.C. § 63-604 and, further, that the County used a widely accepted appraisal method by using the best available comparable sales to value the Kimbroughs' homesite.
1. Whether the County must apply the agriculture exemption under I.C. § 63-604 to homesites that are contiguous with land actively devoted to agriculture.
2. Whether the County's valuation of the Kimbroughs' homesite was arbitrary, oppressive, or discriminatory.
3. Whether the Kimbroughs are entitled to attorney fees under ...