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Canandaigua Wine Company, Inc. v. County of Madera

September 2, 2009

CANANDAIGUA WINE COMPANY, INC., PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
COUNTY OF MADERA ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS;
MADERA COUNTY ASSESSOR, REAL PARTY IN INTEREST AND RESPONDENT.



APPEAL from an order of the Madera County Superior Court. Eric Wyatt, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. MCV 026118).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Levy, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Appellant, Canandaigua Wine Company, purports to appeal from an order summarily adjudicating one of the three causes of action in its petition for writ of administrative mandate. However, this is not an appealable order. Accordingly, we will dismiss the appeal.

BACKGROUND

In 1994, appellant purchased the Almaden and Inglenook wine businesses for $127,733,795. As part of this sale, appellant acquired a winery located in Madera County. Appellant promptly recorded a preliminary change of ownership report for this winery stating a total purchase price of $72,896,000 for the Madera County real property.

Although required to appraise this property at its full cash value as of the date the change in ownership occurred (Rev. & Tax. Code, § 75.10), respondent, the Madera County Assessor (Assessor), did not issue a supplemental assessment or otherwise establish a new base year value reflecting this change. Consequently, appellant filed an application for changed assessment for the 1995 tax year with respondent, the Madera County Assessment Appeals Board (AAB). Thereafter, appellant filed applications for changed assessment for the 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 tax years.

The AAB conducted a hearing on appellant‟s applications in December 2003. Appellant‟s evidence allocated approximately $40 million of the $127,733,795 total purchase price to the assessable property at the winery. However, the AAB based its value determination on the preliminary change of ownership report. Thus, the AAB set a base year value of $72,896,000 for the real property. The AAB then added $2,064,000 for the assessable personal property for a total base year value of $74,960,000.

Appellant filed the underlying petition for writ of administrative mandamus or mandate in the trial court setting forth three causes of action. The first cause of action challenges the AAB‟s decision on the ground that appellant‟s appeals relating to tax years 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 were not timely heard. The second cause of action alleges that for each of the tax years after 1995, the AAB failed to enroll the property‟s trended base year value as required by Revenue and Taxation Code section 51. In the third cause of action, appellant challenges the AAB‟s new base year value for the winery.

Appellant also filed two complaints for refund of property taxes, one covering tax years 1994 through 1996 and a second one covering tax years 1999 through 2002. Respondent, the County of Madera (County), was the only named defendant. Appellant‟s three pending actions were consolidated for trial.

The parties filed cross-motions for summary adjudication of the third cause of action of the writ petition, i.e., the challenge to the AAB‟s base year value for the 1995 tax year. The trial court granted appellant‟s motion in part holding that the AAB erred when it adopted the preliminary change of ownership report as the winery‟s purchase price. However, the court declined appellant‟s request to determine, as a matter of law, both the transaction purchase price and the fair market value for the winery based on a pro rata allocation of that purchase price. Rather, the court remanded the matter to the AAB with directions to recalculate the value of the subject property.

Appellant filed an appeal from this writ order. Appellant agrees with the trial court‟s ruling that the AAB‟s decision must be reversed. However, appellant finds fault with the remand to the AAB. Rather, appellant asserts, the trial court should have determined the winery‟s base year value as a matter of law.

The County and the Assessor moved to dismiss this appeal. They argue that the appeal is premature because the writ order appealed from does not dispose of ...


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