Case Law

Case Law: Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunals in the course of deciding cases, in which the law was analyzed using these cases to resolve ambiguities for deciding current cases (Wikipedia). In other words, it’s the law put into action. Below are summaries of decisions of case laws in regards to the agricultural classification. If you take something else from these decisions, please feel free to contact me.

Hausman v. Rudkin (1972)

The plaintiff purchased an 800 acre property and leased the property to the owner for cattle grazing purposes. Much of the land was fertilized pasture and some of the land was native swamp pasture. In addition, the plaintiff signed an option to sell the land at a profit which was never exercised and was up for sale at the time of the hearing. The plaintiffs were denied the classification based on an expectation of a profit from a sale. The courts ruled in the plaintiff’s favor due to a bona fide agricultural use on the property.

Walden v. Tuten (1977)

A similar case to Hausman V. Rudkin; a property was purchased and much of the land was leased back to the previous owner for the amount of the real estate taxes. The plaintiffs were denied the classification due to the sale being three times the amount of agricultural assessed value as well as a lack of profit seeking. It is stated the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs based primarily on the agricultural use.

Straughn v. K & K Land Management (1977)

K & K Land Management bought 350 acres of citrus grove. Twenty-five acres of those acres were developed into an amusement attraction and the rest of the property of the citrus grove was continued on as it was before the purchase. The total purchase price of the entire 350 acre tract was approximately six times the assessed agricultural assessment and was denied the Ag Classification based on the rule: if the sale is three times the ag assessment, the property is not entitled to the Ag Classification. The judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff stating the profit does not need to be immediate and the primary use of the property in question was bona fide agriculture.

Roden v. K & K Land Management (1978)

The same plaintiff was denied again for similar reasons. The property appraiser denied the plaintiff on the premise of the defendant not being able to make a reasonable profit and admitting to future speculation of developing the property was sufficient information to deny the Agricultural Classification. The court ruled that lowering the carrying costs of a property until development is not sufficient to deny an Agricultural Classification. Agricultural use is still the primary test. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

Straughn V. Tuck (1978)

The plaintiffs owned 20 acres of unimproved land and were denied the Agricultural Classification based the tax assessor failing to consider all factors enumerated in the statute in arriving at a just valuation of appellees’ property. The use at the time of the denial was agricultural and was also not considered. Another point to make is that the plaintiffs argued commercial use being a requirement is unconstitutional. The judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff to receive the classification however he ruled the commercial aspect to be constitutional.

Bass V. General Development Corp (1979)

The plaintiffs were denied the Agricultural Classification for several years on lands they platted as subdivisions. The trial court found that Section 193.461(4)(a)4, Florida Statutes (1975), in which the denial is based on is unconstitutional because it violates due process by creating a presumption that land for which the owner has recorded a subdivision plat is nonagricultural and that although the recording of a subdivision plat may support a conclusive presumption that the intended future use of the platted land will be nonagricultural, to single out this class of taxpayers from all others who are assessed on a present use criterion is so disparate as to deny them equal protection of the law. It is the actual use of its land on the assessment date, rather than the intended use which is determinative of whether it should have received an agricultural classification.

Harbor Ventures, Inc V. Hutches (1979)

This is a case in which the taxpayers were denied an Agricultural Classification based on the rezoning of the land from a non-agricultural use to another non-agricultural use at the request of the owners. The case resulted in the ruling that section 193.461(4)(a)3 applies only to those situations where land zoned agricultural is changed to a non-agricultural zoning at the request of its owner and the court declined to address the constitutional question finding the statute inapplicable to the facts of this case.

Tuftee V. County of Kane (1979)

The plaintiffs, owners of 76 acres of Agricultural Classified Lands, erected a stable under the knowledge of the county without a permit. Land owners were allowed to construct agricultural buildings without a permit if the property is Agricultural Classified. A requirement to obtain the Agricultural Classification is to of had 15 acres or more used for bona fide agricultural purposes. The county appraiser learned of a contract to sell off 69 acres of the property resulting in 7 remaining acres which was less than the minimum 15 acre requirement needed. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff that the county has no authority to establish acreage minimums to which it will grant the statutory right of exemption from zoning regulations. Further the county has no zoning authority to require the plaintiff to obtain building and special use permits or to restrain her agricultural use of the property other than as to statutorily permitted building.

Dept Of Revenue V. Goembel (1980)

A property owner purchased 130 acres of citrus grove and paid more than three times the agricultural assessed value in 1973. The property was denied the Agricultural Classification based on the inability to reach a profit in light of the investment. The other factors including use was not the determining factors in the decision. The sole basis of the denial was for commercial success which was overruled. In addition, the other aspects of the 1974 assessed value should have been classified as agricultural and the property owner should be paid interest on the overpayment of taxes were denied on the taxpayer’s part. Reasons for denial were the land owner past the 60 day statutory period to file a complaint and there being no statutory authority for the allowance of interest on a tax refund, respectively.

Markham V.  E.C. Fogg III (1984)

A land owner of 270 acres was denied the Ag Classification due to purchasing the land more than three times the agricultural assessed value, a request of a rezoning to a non-agricultural use, and not proving the land was used primarily for agricultural use as ruled by a trial court. The district court reversed the decision but an appeal from the circuit court then ruled, a situation where land zoned agricultural is changed to a nonagricultural zoning at the request of its owner, is constitutional and was proper as applied to the facts of this case.

Markham V. June Rose (1986)

The Agricultural Classification was denied on a property containing cattle on a 71 acre portion of a leased property. The land was heavily overgrown and had a watering hole for the cattle. The owner and tenant claim they never received notice to clear the land. The trial court reversed the decision based upon two subjective factors: first, the court’s perceived need to preserve green space against encroachment by development; and second, the lack of providing the taxpayer notice and an opportunity to clear the land before the next tax year. The trial court’s decision was reversed and the denial was reapplied. The property appraiser’s determination “enjoys a presumption of correctness” which was not applied by the trial court in reviewing the property appraiser’s denial of agricultural classification. Also, the taxpayers had not met their burden of showing entitlement to an agricultural classification where their land was overgrown and heavily wooded.

Ridgewood Phosphate Corp V. Perkins (1986)

In 1984, a property owner applied for a permit to extract minerals from 2,369 acres out of a 4,812 acre property. The majority of the remaining acreage was leased for grazing and an Agricultural Classification was applied and denied based on the mining usage of the other part of the property. The county appraiser stated the property was denied based on the future intent of the property. The decision was reversed.

Giandolio V. Markham (1990)

Denied based on the speculation the property would be developed which is insufficient being that use is still the guidepost. The first factor of denial was the property appraiser labeled the commercial business a sham and the business didn’t make a significant profit. The second reason was overturned due to “commercial agricultural use simply adds another factor, i.e. profit or profit motive, which may be considered by the tax assessor in determining whether or not a claimed agricultural use is bona fide. It does not . . . limit agricultural classification to commercially profitable agricultural operations.” In addition, Gianolio property has been continuously operated as a dairy since 1955. The decision to deny the Agricultural Classification was reversed.

Robbins V. Yusem (1990)

In short, the use of the property for commercial agriculture was prohibited by zoning regulations and therefore was not in “good faith” as required by the Greenbelt Law, the Property Appraiser’s denial of agricultural classification was proper. Furthermore, no statute, judicial decision, or principle of equity permits us to sanction an illegal act by conferring upon the taxpayer substantial tax relief at the expense of other taxpayers.

Aitkin V. Markham (1991)

The Aitkens owned approximately 22 acres in which included a residence and 17.44 acres are devoted to the Aitkens’ Dutch Warmblooded horse breeding business. They were denied the Ag Classification due to the purchase price paid, the business wasn’t profitable as of January 1st, and the property appraiser didn’t include Dutch Warmblooded horse breeding with livestock breeding. The ruling was overturned due to the purchase price paid included a residence, in order to obtain agricultural classification, it is not necessary that the applicant demonstrate a reasonable expectation of meeting investment costs and making a profit, and the disparate treatment afforded breeders of Dutch Warmbloods does not appear to be founded upon any legitimate justification.

St Petersburg Kennel Club Inc V. Smith (1995)

Kennel Club applied for and was denied an Agricultural Classification because they considered greyhound dogs are “livestock.” when the legislature has defined “livestock” for various statutory purposes, the term has been confined to those animals that graze or that may be used in and for the preparation of meat or meat products. In the United States, dogs do not fit within any of these statutory definitions.

Steege V. Board of Appeals of Stow (1998)

The Steeges owned a property located in a residential zone whereas they raised, trained, and boarded horses; for giving riding lessons; and for the riding use of owners of the boarded horses. The building inspector ordered the Steeges to “cease and desist immediately the riding school operation . . . .” The order stated that its enforcement would be “extended” if the Steeges filed for a special permit with the board of appeals. The Steeges submitted an application for a special permit and claimed that the operation of a riding school on their property was an agricultural use and, therefore, exempt from the proscriptions of Stow’s zoning by-law. The building inspector determined the operation carried out by the Steeges on the premises, which are located in a residential zone, is not agriculture, and is therefore subject to the zoning by-laws.
The judge ruled that “the plaintiffs’ purchase and raising of horses, their stabling, training through the operation of the riding school, and their participation in horse shows are all part of the one whole and constitute agriculture. In addition, no zoning ordinance or by-law shall prohibit, unreasonably regulate or require a special permit for the use of land for the primary purpose of agriculture.

Shultz V. Love PGI Partners (1999)

Determination the various factors surrounding the alleged agricultural use as provided in section 193.461(3)(b), include the duration and continuity of the use, the purchase price and size of the land, whether the land is cared for in a manner to support the alleged use, whether there is a lease and, if so, its terms, and such other factors as may be apparent. In this case, a property was denied an Agricultural Classification due to the agricultural use being an illegal use according to zoning. In summary, agricultural use of property in violation of applicable zoning regulations cannot be considered “good faith” commercial agricultural use of the land entitling its owner to an agricultural exemption.

Markham V. PPI Pompano Park (2003)

PPI owns 180 acres of property in Pompano Beach, Florida. Seventy-five acres are devoted to the boarding and training of horses; 40 acres contain a main racing track, 90% used for training and 10% for live racing  and the remaining sixty-five acres comprise the grandstand area and parking lot. In addition to boarding and training on the property, another use of the property was to develop and mature some of the horses. In 2000, PPI applied for an agricultural classification for the year 2000, for approximately 115 acres representing the boarding/training area and the racing track. Markham denied the request, concluding that the boarding and training of horses was not an agricultural use since it did not lead to the production of an agricultural product. The conclusion that the phrase “all forms of farm products and farm production” contained in section 193.461(5) “is not meant to be a limiting phrase but rather a catch-all” and an Agricultural Classification was applied to the property.

Robbins V. Racetrack Training Center Inc. (2003)

Racetrack Training Center, Inc. was the owner of 13.65 fenced acres in Miami-Dade County in 1998. Racetrack applied to the Property Appraiser for agricultural classification of the Property on the basis that it was used exclusively for the business of training and boarding thoroughbred racing horses. As of January 1, 1998, there were approximately fifty to sixty thoroughbred racing horses living on the Property. The Property Appraiser and the Department of Revenue contest the agricultural classification on the basis that section 193.416(5) defines “agricultural purposes” to include “livestock … and all forms of farm products and farm production.” They argue that the latter phrase operates to limit the term “agricultural purposes” to situations where the property owner is raising or producing livestock. The judge ruled in favor of the taxpayers stating the phrase, “all forms of farm products and farm production,” is not meant to be a limiting phrase but rather a catch-all.

Tifton V. Gardner (2010)

The landowner, Tifton, was not entitled to an agricultural classification in 2006, after having been granted such classification by a Value Adjustment Board in 2004, because landowners had abandoned or discontinued such agricultural use. As evidenced, Tilton harvested the timber without any effort to promote regeneration in addition to putting the property up for sale. The courts ruled because of those reasons the conclusion was Tilton no longer used the land primarily for agricultural purposes.

Mclendon V. Nikolits (2017)

The McLendons own a five-acre parcel in Palm Beach County. Since 2006, they have used the land to raise wild birds for sale as pets—an activity commonly known as aviculture. From tax year 2006 through 2012, the Property Appraiser granted the McLendons’ property an agricultural tax classification because of its dual uses for aviculture and cattle grazing. In 2013, the Property Appraiser denied an agricultural tax classification for the part of McLendons’ parcel devoted to aviculture. The Property Appraiser stated that his office mistakenly classified aviculture as an agricultural purpose. The defense stated the term “farm product” as listed in section 193.461(5) is unambiguously defined by section 823.14(3) as: any . . . animal . . . useful to humans and includes, but is not limited to, any product derived therefrom. Because of the “not limited to” statement, the courts decided not to limit the definition to what is listed. The McClendon’s proved birds are useful and the courts ruled in their favor.