Coleman confirmed that the assessment value of 0 per acre was based on these sales, which he viewed as comparable.
Both Morse and Coleman agreed that the highest and best use of the property was recreational, including hunting, fishing and camping.
The Trust presently owns 10,140 acres at River Ranch consisting of 8,112 one-and-one-quarter acre lots which are scattered and noncontiguous, giving a checkerboard appearance to the Trust property. There are no utilities, dedicated roadways or other improvements serving the lots.
Recorded right-of-way easements allow access to the lots, but these easements are unimproved.
He also considered a Polk County ordinance which prohibited the issuance of a building permit for a lot not on a public road. The property appraiser presented Edwin Coleman as his witness.
Coleman is the supervisor of the Real Estate Department of the Polk County Property Appraiser's Office.
Further, we see no reason why the building permit ordinance and wetlands ordinance should enter into the determination of assessed valuation of property which everyone agreed could only be used for recreational purposes.
The trial judge acknowledged that this last limitation was produced by federal income tax laws, which would penalize the Trust if it engaged in the business of selling individual parcels.
We believe the best indicator of the value of the property were the sales of comparable parcels in River Ranch Acres and that these were properly considered by the property appraiser to be comparable sales. Coleman put it, "I think that in any circumstance we can't discount the fact that people are paying money for the property.
And as long as they are paying money for the property, it must have some value.
The Trust brought suit challenging the validity of that assessment and the matter was heard nonjury. Morse, reported comparable sales data in River Ranch Acres showing a low price of 0 per acre for nonroad frontage and a high price of ,600 for road frontage.
Morse, however, disregarded comparable sales and valued the property at 4.16 per acre.