Are Cellular Towers Subjected to Real Estate Tax Assessment ?

In Shenandoah Mobile Company v. Dauphin County Board of Assessment Appeals, 869 A.2d 562 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005), the county performed a countywide reassessment of all real property, but it did not include any cellular towers in the assessment because the county did not deem the towers to be proper subjects of assessment for real estate tax purposes. Subsequently, based upon a different interpretation of law, the local assessment office identified all cellular or wireless towers in the county and assessed the value of the towers and supporting pads as improvements to real estate. Id. The local assessment office then sent out notices of the change in assessment to the owners of the cellular towers, including Shenandoah. Shenandoah appealed the assessment notice to the Board, which concluded that the cellular towers were properly assessed as improvements to real estate and denied Shenandoah's appeal. The trial court affirmed, rejecting Shenandoah's arguments that its cellular tower was not real estate and that the assessment was an unlawful spot reassessment. On further appeal, this court agreed, holding that the cellular towers were not personalty but taxable realty. Further, the Court held that the assessment of the cellular towers was not an impermissible spot reassessment, reasoning that, because the cellular towers were a new subject of taxation, this was an initial assessment rather than a reassessment.