WI Court of Appeals – District III
Case Name: North Central Conservancy Trust, Inc. v. Town of Harrison
Case No.: 2022AP000185
Officials: Gill, J.
Focus: Tax Exemption for Trust
North Central Conservancy Trust, Inc., owner of 160 acres of property in the Town of Harrison, (“the Trust”) filed a civil action challenging the Town of Harrison’s (“the Town”) decision to disallow the Trust’s claim for tax exemption under WIS. STAT. § 74.35 (2021-22). Specifically, the Trust argued that its property was exempt from general property taxation because it was “held in trust in public interest.” See WIS. STAT. § 70.11(20). Following the Trust’s submission of new evidence in the circuit court, the court reviewed the Trust’s action de novo under § 74.35(3)(d) and reversed the Town’s decision not to exempt the Trust’s property from the payment of taxes. The court subsequently entered an order denying the Town’s motion for reconsideration.
The Town argues that the circuit court erred by allowing the Trust to submit new evidence in court. According to the Town, the court should have reviewed the Town’s decision applying certiorari review because WIS. STAT. § 74.35(3)(d) does not specify a method of review. See State ex rel. Johnson v. Cady, 50 Wis. 2d 540, 549-50, 185 N.W.2d 306 (1971). The appeals court rules that Section 74.35(3)(d) states that a property owner “may commence an action in circuit court to recover the amount of the claim not allowed.” Consistent with the plain meaning of the text, the context in which the statute is used, and relevant case law, the appeals court concludes that § 74.35(3)(d) requires a court to review de novo a taxation district’s property exemption decision and, if appropriate, determine the amount the property owner may recover on the disallowed claim, thus allowing for consideration of new evidence.