William J. Montgomery, Respondent,
Spartanburg County Assessor, Appellant. Appellate Case No. 2013-002697
September 8, 2016
From The Administrative Law Court Deborah Brooks Durden,
Administrative Law Judge
Nelson Stevens, Michael Enrico Kozlarek, and Walter Hammond
Cartin, all of Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein, LLP, of
Columbia; and Virginia M. Dupont, and John Holladay Harris,
both of Spartanburg County Attorney's Office, of
Spartanburg, for Appellant.
G. Carpenter and Jennifer J. Miller, both of Carpenter Law
Firm, PC, of Greenville; and Lewis Warren Clayton, III, of
MSI-Viking Gage, LLC, of Greenville, for Respondent.
action from the Administrative Law Court (ALC), the
Spartanburg County Assessor (Assessor) appeals the ALC's
order granting William J. Montgomery's motion for summary
judgment. Assessor argues the ALC erred in its definition of
"fair market value for agricultural purposes" in
section 12-43-220(d) of the South Carolina Code (2014). We
owns a tree farm located in Pauline, South Carolina. The
property includes three buildings-two storage buildings for
farm equipment and one mobile home that is used as an office
for the farming operation. The parties agree the structures
are related to the agricultural use of the property and are
neither residences nor used for any other for-profit
2011 tax year, the Assessor valued Montgomery's property
for taxation purposes at $40, 641. The Assessor reached its
valuation by valuing the land at $12, 211 using the soil
capability valuation method, valuing the structures on the
land at $28, 430 using the fair market value of the
improvements, and adding the two figures together.
appealed the Assessor's valuation to the ALC. Montgomery
argued the entire tract, including the buildings, must be
assessed as agricultural real property and the value of the
buildings is subsumed in the statutory calculation of the
agricultural real property value. The Assessor conceded the
structures were agricultural real property and should be
assessed using the 4% ratio; however, the Assessor argued
section 12-43-220(d)(2)(A) only provides the process for
valuing the land used for agricultural purposes, not the
granted summary judgment in favor of Montgomery. The ALC
found Montgomery's entire farm "must be classified
and assessed as agricultural real property and the Assessor
may not carve out and separately assess a small portion of
the tract (such as the structures attached thereto) . . .
." Accordingly, the ALC found the Assessor improperly
assessed Montgomery's property and ordered the property
be "assessed and taxed based on its agricultural use
value alone without adding a separate value for the
improvements on the [p]roperty.'' This appeal
STANDARD OF REVIEW
appeals to the ALC are subject to the Administrative
Procedures Act (APA)." CFRE, LLC v. Greenville Cty.
Assessor, 395 S.C. 67, 73, 716 S.E.2d 877, 880 (2011).
"Accordingly, we review the decision of the ALC for
errors of law." Id. at 74, 716 S.E.2d at 881.
"Questions of statutory interpretation are questions of
law, which we are free to decide without any deference to the