FINAL ORDER AND DECISION
This matter is before me pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 12-60-2540 (Supp.1998) upon Petitioner's request for contested case
hearing. Petitioner D A M of Charleston, Inc. ("Taxpayer") contests the valuation of his property for the 1998 tax year by
Respondent Charleston County Assessor ("Assessor"). The parties exhausted all prehearing remedies with the Assessor and
the Charleston County Board of Assessment Appeals ("Board").
After notice to the parties, a hearing was conducted on October 5, 1999. Based upon the evidence presented, I find and
conclude that the true value of each of the subject properties for the 1998 tax year is $5,000. Any motions or issues raised in
the proceedings, but not addressed in this Order are deemed denied pursuant to ALJD Rule 29(C).
At the hearing, the parties stipulated in open court that the issue before this tribunal is whether the subject properties, which
are lots, are suitable for the construction of homes, or, in other words, "buildable." The parties further agreed that if a lot is
buildable, the market value for tax purposes for the 1998 tax year would be $5,000 per lot. On the other hand, if a lot is not
buildable, the parties agreed that the value of the lot would be $200 per lot. Finally, the parties agreed that whether a lot is
buildable is determined on whether it is suitable for the installation of a septic tank system, since public sewer lines are not
available at the lots at issue in this case.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Having carefully considered all testimony, exhibits, and arguments presented at the hearing of this case, and taking into
account the credibility and accuracy of the evidence, I make the following Findings of Fact by a preponderance of the
1. Taxpayer owns several lots located in the Cedar Springs Subdivision on John's Island, South Carolina, which lots are the
subject of this contested case hearing.
2. The subject properties are identified as: Tax Map Nos. 277-06-00-067, 277-06-00-069, 277-07-00-039, 277-07-00-040,
277-04-00-041, 277-07-00-116, 277-07-00-124, 277-07-00-125, 277-08-00-004, 277-08-00-005, 277-08-00-026, 277-08-00-027.
3. In 1997, Taxpayer purchased the lots and, later that year, applied to the South Carolina Department of Health and
Environmental ("DHEC") for septic tank permits. DHEC, however, apparently misplaced Taxpayer's applications. At the
time Taxpayer submitted its initial applications, there were no fees associated with the applications. However, beginning in
January 1998, DHEC imposed a $60 fee per septic tank application. Taxpayer has not resubmitted applications to DHEC
for these lots because of the attendant fees.
4. Taxpayer hired Samuel Brown, a licensed septic tank installer, to evaluate the lots for suitability for the installation of
septic tanks. Mr. Brown is not trained, or certified or licensed by DHEC to make suitability determinations for the
installation of on-site septic systems. In fact, DHEC rejected Mr. Brown's determinations as it deemed him unqualified to
make such evaluations.
5. The Assessor does not accept Mr. Brown's findings concerning the suitability of these lots for individual septic systems as
credible evidence. Instead, the Assessor does accept an official finding regarding the same from DHEC as persuasive
6. In every valuation of property, the Assessor presumes that the property is buildable, unless contrary evidence is
7. Based on the presumption that the lots were buildable, the Charleston County Board of Assessment Appeals determined
that the true value of each of the lots was $5,000 for the 1998 tax year. In contrast, the Taxpayer contends that the value of
the lots as of December 31, 1997 was only $200 because the lots were not suitable for the installation of individual septic
"The pertinent date to determine the value of property for a given tax year is December 31st of the preceding year." Lindsey
v. South Carolina Tax Comm'n, 302 S.C. 274, 395 S.E.2d 184, 186 (1990), citing S.C. Code Ann. § 12-37-900 (1976) and
Atkinson Dredging Co. v. Thomas, 266 S.C. 361, 223 S.E.2d 592 (1976). The Taxpayer has the burden of showing that the
Assessor's valuation is incorrect. Cloyd v. Mabry, 295 S.C. 86, 367 S.E.2d 171 (Ct. App. 1988).
In valuing property, an assessor should take into consideration all relevant factors and circumstances bearing on this
determination which are within his knowledge or brought to his attention. See 84 C.J.S. Taxation § 410, at 784-85 (1954).
In estimating the value of land, all of its elements or incidents which affect market value or would influence the mind of a
purchaser should be considered, such as location, quality, condition and use. See 84 C.J.S. Taxation § 410, at 784, § 411, at
In the instant case, Taxpayer has unfortunately not presented sufficient or credible evidence to establish that the lots are not
buildable by virtue of their unsuitability for the installation of individual septic systems. DHEC is the state agency
authorized to and charged with the responsibility to promulgate regulations relating to septic tank systems. S.C. Code Ann.
§ 44-1-140(11) (1985). Accordingly, before a septic tank permit will be granted, the proposed site must meet standards set
by DHEC. 24A S.C. Code Ann. Regs. 61-56(V)(A) (1976). No other state entity is authorized to make determinations
regarding the suitability of a site for installation of septic systems. Mr. Brown, whom the Taxpayer hired to make site
suitability determinations, is not trained or certified by DHEC to make qualified findings in this regard. Rather, he is certified
by DHEC only to install septic systems. Clearly, the simple and most expedient thing for the Taxpayer to do is to apply
officially to DHEC for septic permits for these lots; hence, the question of whether the lots are buildable can then be squarely
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Based upon the Findings of Fact, I conclude as a matter of law, the following:
1. Jurisdiction is vested with the Administrative Law Judge Division pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 12-60-2540 (Supp.1998),
S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-600(B) (Supp.1998) and S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-310 (Supp.1998).
2. Land is unique, as no parcel is identical to another. Unlike commodities, land does not have a fixed market price at a
given period, and its value is determined by the estimate of the person who values it. 84 C.J.S. Taxation § 411, at 793
(1954). "Generally, the proper valuation of realty for taxation is a question of fact, to be ascertained in each individual case
in the manner prescribed by statute." Id.
3. S.C. Code Ann. § 12-37-930 (Supp.1998) provides:
All real property shall be valued for taxation at its true value in money which in all cases shall be held to be the price which
the property would bring following reasonable exposure to the market, where both the seller and buyer are willing, are not
acting under compulsion, and are reasonably well informed as to the uses and purposes of which it is adapted and for which
it is capable of being used.
Fair market value is the measure of true value for taxation purposes under this statute. Lindsey v. South Carolina Tax
Comm'n, 302 S.C. 504, 397 S.E.2d 95 (1990).
4. "The pertinent date to determine the value of property for a given tax year is December 31st of the preceding year."
Lindsey v. South Carolina Tax Comm'n, 302 S.C. 274, 395 S.E.2d 184, 186 (1990), citing S.C. Code Ann. § 12-37-900
(1976) and Atkinson Dredging Co. v. Thomas, 266 S.C. 361, 223 S.E.2d 592 (1976).
5. Taxpayer has the burden of showing that the Assessor's valuation is incorrect. Cloyd v. Mabry, 295 S.C. 86, 367 S.E.2d
171 (Ct. App. 1988).
6. In valuing property, an assessor should take into consideration all relevant factors and circumstances bearing on this
determination which are within his knowledge or brought to his attention. 84 C.J.S. Taxation § 410, at 784-85 (1954). In
estimating the value of land, all of its elements or incidents which affect market value or would influence the mind of a
purchaser should be considered, such as location, quality, condition and use. See 84 C.J.S. Taxation § 410 at 784; § 411, at
7. "Appraisal is, of course, not an exact science and the precise weight to be given to any factor is necessarily a matter of
judgment, for the court, in the light of the circumstances reflected by the evidence in the individual case." Santee Oil Co.,
Inc. v. Cox, 265 S.C. 270, 217 S.E.2d 789 (1975).
8. Taxpayer failed to meet his burden of showing that the Assessor's valuation is incorrect.
9. The true value of the Taxpayer's properties as of December 31, 1997 was $5,000 per lot.
Based upon the foregoing Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Assessor's valuation of Taxpayer's lots at the Cedar Springs Subdivision on John's
Island, South Carolina of $5,000 per lot for the 1998 tax year is sustained.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
JOHN D. GEATHERS
Administrative Law Judge
Post Office Box 11667
Columbia, South Carolina 29211-1667
October 21, 1999
Columbia, South Carolina