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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Brandner v. Municipality of Anchorage (6/13/2014) sp-6913

Brandner v. Municipality of Anchorage (6/13/2014) sp-6913

         Notice:  This opinion is subject to correction before publication in the PACIFIC  REPORTER .  

         Readers are requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts,  

          303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878, email  




SHEILA C. BRANDNER,                                      )  

                                                         )        Supreme Court No. S-15144  

                            Appellant,                   )  

                                                         )        Superior Court No. 3AN-12-07520 CI  

         v.	                                             )  

                                                         )        O P I N I O N  


                                                         )        No. 6913 - June 13, 2014  

                            Appellee.	                   )


                   Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third  


                   Judicial District, Anchorage, Andrew Guidi, Judge.  

                   Appearances:    Sheila  C.  Brandner,  pro  se,  Anchorage,  

                   Appellant.  Pamela D. Weiss, Assistant Municipal Attorney,  


                   and Dennis A. Wheeler, Municipal Attorney,  Anchorage, for  



                   Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and  


                   Bolger, Justices.  

                   BOLGER, Justice.  


                   Sheila Brandner appeals the Anchorage Municipal Board of Equalization's  


(the Board's) valuation of her home for the 2012 tax year.  She argues that the Municipal  


assessor's office used an improper appraisal method and that the Board overestimated the  


value  of  her  property.    We  conclude  that  the  Board  made  a  clerical  error  in  the  


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calculation of the value of Brandner's property.  We therefore remand to the Board to  

adopt a final assessment of $420,700, which is consistent with the Board's intent.  




                     The property at issue in this appeal is a single-family residence on a 1.17  


acre lot in the Spring Hills Estates community of Anchorage.  At Brandner's request,  

Municipality  of  Anchorage  assessor  Lucito  Muñoz  and  his  supervisor,  John  Dyson,  

inspected the property on June 20, 2011.  According to Muñoz's testimony, they noticed       

that the house had some defects, and so gave it a "fair," or below average, rating.  Based  

on  their  inspection  and  a  comparison  of  other  like  properties,  they  concluded  that  


Brandner's property was worth $499,400.  

                     Brandner appealed the assessment, claiming that it overvalued her property  


"by a long shot."  In preparation for her appeal before the Board, Brandner obtained an  

independent appraisal and several repair estimates from local contractors.  Her appraiser,  

Paige Hodson, valued the property at $385,000, and the contractors estimated that repair  


work on the house would cost between $120,000 and $140,000.  

                     Although Brandner sought to introduce copies of the appraisal and estimates  

during a hearing before the Board, she was not permitted to do so because she had failed  


to submit the evidence by the required deadline.  However, the Board allowed her to  

testify as to the substance of those documents.  

                     The Board held a hearing concerning Brandner's appeal on March 27, 2012.  

During the hearing, Brandner and Hodson argued that the Municipality's appraisal did  

not adequately take into account the poor condition of the property.  To support their  

argument, they testified to Hodson's appraisal and the three repair estimates.  

                                                                  -2-                                                           6913

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                   Muñoz responded that his appraisal did take into account the property's  


below-average condition.  He testified that the property is worth $560,700,  but that he 

subtracted about $61,000 to account for defects he observed during his inspection.  He  

therefore concluded that $499,400 was a fair estimate of the property's value.  

          At the end of the hearing, the Board concluded that Brandner had shown that the  

property required about $140,000 of repair work to restore it to good condition.  Adopting  


a base value of $567,000, the Board concluded that the property was worth $427,000  


before repairs.  

                   Brandner asked the Board to reconsider its decision, arguing that the Board  

committed error by adopting the Municipality's base value estimate and that one of the  

Board members asked questions that were harassing and intimidating.  She also objected  


to the Board's exclusion of her documentary evidence, claiming that her "significant  


efforts" to file the documents by the Board's deadline "were repeatedly and brutally  


thwarted."  The Board denied Brandner's request for reconsideration.  

                   Brandner appealed to the superior court, making substantially the same  


arguments  that  she  made  in  her  request  for  reconsideration.    The  court  affirmed  the  


Board's decision, concluding that it "was well within the Board's discretion" to adopt the  


Municipality's estimate of the property's value rather than Hodson's and that Brandner  

had not shown that "the Board applied a fundamentally wrong principle of valuation or  


engaged in fraud."  Brandner now appeals to this court.  

          1        The Board heard this as $567,000.  


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                            In  administrative  appeals,  we  independently  review  the  merits  of  the  

underlying administrative decision.2  

                                                                             Because "real property assessments encompass  

questions of fact and law that involve agency expertise," we apply the "reasonable basis  

standard  of  review  to  determine  whether  the  Board  properly  valued  a  parcel  of  real  


                   This is a deferential standard of review, and the Board's decision will be upheld          

"so long as there was no fraud or clear adoption of a fundamentally wrong principle of   

valuation."4  An agency adjudicator's decision to exclude evidence is reviewed for abuse  

of discretion.5  

IV.           DISCUSSION  


                           Brandner argues, first, that the base value adopted by the Board is arbitrary  

and has no basis in the record.  The Municipality responds that the Board's estimate is  

supported by substantial evidence.  

                           During the hearing, Muñoz testified that the property should be valued at  

"five sixty seven hundred."  Although that phrase is ambiguous, it appears that Muñoz  


was using a shorthand to refer to a figure of "five [hundred and] sixty [thousand,] seven  


hundred [dollars]" or "$560,700."  And the record supports the conclusion that Muñoz  


meant $560,700.  First, he testified that the "five sixty seven hundred" figure was based  


on $204,600 for the land and $356,100 for the improvements, which equals $560,700.  


              2             Varilek v. Burke, 254 P.3d 1068, 1070 (Alaska 2011).  

              3            Id. at 1071.  

              4            Horan v. Kenai Peninsula Borough Bd. of Equalization , 247 P.3d 990, 998  

(Alaska 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted).  

              5            Stein v. Kelso, 846 P.2d 123, 126 (Alaska 1993).  

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Second, Muñoz testified that he arrived at $499,400, his final estimate of the property's  

value, by subtracting about $61,000 from "five sixty seven hundred."  

                    The record supports Muñoz's testimony that the property would be worth  


approximately $560,700 after repairs. Muñoz appraised the land using a market-adjusted  


cost approach, valuing the property as the unimproved land value plus the depreciated  


replacement cost of the improvements.   The property appraisal report indicates that the  

land was assessed at $204,600, the value that the Board ultimately adopted.  The house  


was estimated at a base cost of $364,000 and a replacement cost of $429,500.  These  


estimates support Muñoz's testimony that the house is worth at least $356,100.  The  

replacement cost of the house was then reduced to account for various economic factors,  


apparently including the cost of repairs, to yield a final estimate of $293,700.  

                    The Board accepted the Municipality's estimate of the value of the land plus  

the replacement cost of the building.  However, all three Board members apparently  

misunderstood Muñoz's  testimony, and they adopted $567,000 as the value of the land  


plus the replacement cost of the house.  Turning to Brandner's repair estimates, which  


ranged  from  $120,000  to  $140,000,    one  Board  member  was  concerned  that  these  


estimates  did  not  include  upgrades  necessary  to  bring  the  property  into  like-new  

condition.  Another member was concerned that the estimates did not include the cost to  


repair the roof, which, according to Brandner, was in disrepair.  The Board eventually  


decided to adopt the maximum repair estimate that Brandner had submitted to account for  

these unknown variables.  They concluded, therefore, that the fair market value of the  


          6         Hodson's appraisal defines the replacement cost as "the estimated cost to  


construct,  at  current  prices  as  of  the  effective  appraisal  date,  a  building  with  utility  


equivalent to the building being appraised, using modern materials and current standards,  

design and layout."  

                                                               -5-                                                             6913  

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property was $567,000 (the Municipality's estimate based on the replacement cost of the  

house) minus $140,000 (the cost of repairs), or $427,000.  

                   The Board clearly intended to rely on the assessor's testimony about the  

replacement  cost  of  the  property.    And  there  was  ample  evidence  supporting  the  

conclusion  that  the  Board  clearly  intended  to  reach:    that  the  fair  market  value  of  

Brandner's property was the assessor's estimate less the $140,000 cost of repairs.  We  

conclude that this case should be remanded so that the Board may enter a final assessed  

value of $420,700, which is consistent with its expressed intent.  

                   Brandner also argues that she was wrongfully prevented from presenting  


evidence  at  the  hearing  concerning  the  fair  market  value  of  her  property.                                 The  

Municipality does not respond to this argument.  

                   The Anchorage Municipal Code (AMC) provides that "[d]ocuments to be  


submitted as evidence by the appellant [during a Board hearing] must be filed with the  


assessor no later than 15 days from the close of the appeal period unless the appellant and  



assessor agree to an extension."  


                                                Because the appeal period closes 30 days after a tax  


assessment is mailed to the property owner,                                                            

                                                              evidence must be submitted within 45 days  

of that mailing.  The appellant is precluded from introducing at the Board hearing any  

evidence not submitted by the deadline.9  

         7         AMC 12.05.053(C)(7) (2003).  

         8         AMC 12.05.055(B) (2006).  

         9         See AMC 12.05.053(C)(7) ("Documents to be submitted as evidence by the  

appellant must be filed with the assessor no later than 15 days from the close of the  

appeal period unless the appellant and the assessor agree to an extension.  If an appellant  


has refused or failed to provide the assessor or assessor's agent full access to property  


or records, the appellant shall be precluded from offering evidence on the issues or issues  

affected by that access and those issues shall be decided in favor of the assessor.").  

                                                           -6-                                                     6913

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                   We have indicated that courts must relax certain court procedures for pro  

se litigants.10                                                                                     

                    But "pro se litigants are expected to make a good faith attempt to comply  


with  the  rules  of  procedure,"  and  "absent  this  effort,  the  litigant  may  be  denied  the  


leniency otherwise afforded pro se litigants."                                

                                                                    Here, the record suggests that Brandner  

did not make a good faith attempt to comply with the Municipality's deadline.  On the  

contrary, she waited until after the deadline to obtain repair estimates and a commercial  


appraisal because she thought this evidence might be unnecessary.    

                   Moreover, the Board permitted Brandner to testify concerning the amount  

of the repair estimates and the result of the appraisal, and the Board expressly relied on  


the repair estimates to reduce the assessed value of her property.  We conclude that the  


Board did not abuse its discretion in its treatment of this evidence.12  


V.        CONCLUSION  

                   We REVERSE the superior court's decision and REMAND this case to the  

Board for entry of a final assessed value of $420,700.  

          10       Gilbert v. Nina Plaza Condo Ass'n, 64 P.3d 126, 129 (Alaska 2003).  

          11       Farmer v. State, Dep't of Law , 235 P.3d 1012, 1017 (Alaska 2010) (internal  

quotation marks and alteration omitted).  

          12       Brandner  also  argues  that  one  of  the  Board  members  harassed  and  


intimidated her during the hearing; however, she does not elaborate on these allegations  

in her brief. This argument is waived for lack of adequate briefing.  Baseden v. State , 174  


P.3d 233, 243 (Alaska 2008) (stating that arguments not adequately briefed are waived).  


                                                            -7-                                                          6913  

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