Saddlebrook Estates v. City of SuffolkAnnotate this Case
A Suffolk developer set aside an Equestrian Center Parcel (ECP) for lease to a riding school and stable, with the stable to pay real estate taxes owed on the ECP. The lease expressly anticipated that ownership of the ECP would later be conveyed to a property owners’ association, which was subsequently organized. Although the stable could sell services to non-members, the lease required preferential treatment for Association members. The Association’s declaration included the ECP as Association’s property but noted that it was leased. The city began assessing real estate tax on the ECP in 2009. In 2012, the city exonerated the Association of liability for tax years ending in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The city again assessed tax on the ECP for tax years ending in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. No one paid the assessments. The city published notice that the ECP would be sold for non-payment of taxes. The Association sought a declaratory judgment that the ECP could not be directly assessed because, under Code 58.1-3284.1(A), any tax due was payable only by the Association’s individual members. The court ruled that the stable was a commercial enterprise and that the statute did not intend “open or common space” to include real estate used for commercial enterprises open to nonmembers of an owners’ association. The Supreme Court of Virginia reversed; nothing in the statutory definition excludes commercial property. Association members who did not board horses at the Stable used its picnic tables, trails, and parking area.