In In Re: Consolidated Appeals of Chester-Upland School District and Chichester School District v. Board of Assessment Appeals of Delaware County, 633 C.D. 2017 (12/27/18), the Commonwealth Court (“Court”) vacated the trial court’s April 27, 2017 Order ruling that Chester-Upland School District and Chichester School District (“Appellants”) may not consider the presence of an outdoor advertising sign on a property when determining its fair market value for the purposes of a real estate tax assessment.

The Consolidated County Assessment Law (“CCAL”) excludes signs and sign structures from real estate taxation as follows:

No sign or sign structure primarily used to support or display a sign shall be assessed as real property by a county for purposes of the taxation of real property by the county or a political subdivision located within the county or by a municipality located within the county authorized to assess real property for purposes of taxation, regardless of whether the sign or sign structure has become affixed to the real estate.

53 Pa. C.S. § 8811(b)(4).

On appeal to Court, Appellants acknowledged that a billboard and the structure that supports it are not to be considered as part of an assessment of property pursuant to Section 8811(b)(4), but the sign-and-sign-structure exclusion does not preclude assessment of the land on which a billboard sits and the consideration of income derived from a lease of that land for the purpose of erecting and operating a billboard.

The Court found that Section 8811(b)(4), like other exclusions of that subsection, plainly requires by its text only that the physical billboard sign and the structure that supports the sign be excluded from the valuation, but this provision does not have any effect on a taxing authorities valuation of the land and other non-excluded or non-exempt taxable real estate situated on that land.

The Court looked to Tech One Associates v. Board of Property Assessments, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County, 53 A.3d 685 (Pa. 2012) to determine that when real estate is subject to a long-term lease, the portions of the property subject to a leasehold interest cannot be disregarded in valuing the property.

Accordingly, the Court held that the trial court erroneously interpreted the sign-and-sign-structure exclusion of Section 8811(b)(4) to foreclose any consideration of any potential income that a property owner may receive from the placement of a billboard on the property in arriving at a fair market value. Thus, the Court remanded the matter back to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with its holding.

Please contact Paul Morcom (717-237-5364) or Randy Varner (717-237-5464) if you have any questions regarding this decision.