Using An Impermissible Method to Determine Fair Market Value for Property Tax Purposes

In F&M Schaeffer Brewing Co. v. Lehigh County Bd. of Appeals (Schaffer Brewery), 530 Pa. 451, 610 A.2d 1 (1992), the subject property was a 791,382 square foot facility situated on 62 acres of land. In 1971, F & M Schaeffer built a brewery which consisted of one large irregularly shaped manufacturing plant, warehouse and numerous small special purpose buildings and silos. The property was assessed at a fair market value of $ 34 million in 1984. F & M Schaeffer appealed the assessment. The county's valuation experts testified that they first determined the property's highest and best use was a special purpose brewery and then applied a replacement cost approach based on the utility of the property for that use, i.e., the production of 3.5 million barrels of beer per year. The trial court accepted that fair market value determination. The Supreme Court reversed and held that was an impermissible method of determining fair market value for property tax purposes. In their determination of fair market value, appellees' experts improperly utilized a replacement cost approach contingent upon the subject property's use as a brewery and the value of the property for that use ... The objective of a cost valuation approach is to estimate, as closely as possible, the cost to construct new the existing taxable real estate because that is, after all, the subject of the assessment--not the production process or use of the property. Id. at 459-460, 610 A.2d at 4-5.