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July 13. 2014 7:46PM

Supreme Court rules against Charlestown in land tax case

Charlestown officials failed again in their effort to remove three tracts of land owned by TransCanada Hydro Northeast Inc. from its open space designation so they could tax it at a higher rate.

The state Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state’s open space statute (RSA 79-A) says municipalities can only impose a change in the land use tax when there actually has been a change in the use of the land.

The state encourages preservation of open space in part by allowing open land to be taxed at its “current use” value, rather than “at its highest and best use.”

Charlestown placed the three TransCanada parcels under current use tax assessment status as open space land in 2007, the court wrote.

In 2012, the town claimed it discovered the land is part of the Bellows Falls TransCanada hydroelectric project and that they had improperly classified it as open space. TransCanada denied this.

Charlestown petitioned the state Board of Tax and Land Appeals to revoke the current use classification and tax the property at the higher use.

The board denied the town’s petition. The high court upheld the board’s ruling.

“The language of the statute makes clear that land classified as open space land which is assessed at current use value cannot be assessed differently from the current use value absent a change in use in the land,” the court wrote.

Charlestown officials acknowledged “there is no dispute” TransCanada’s use of the land hasn’t changed since it went in current use in 2007, the court wrote.

kmarchocki@unionleader.com


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