The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Tax and Land Appeals denying current use taxation to property it found constituted curtilage and not open space.
Arthur and Virginia Trust own two contiguous lots in New London: lot 2 and 5. Lot 2 is a waterfront property and has significant improvements, including a seasonal home, a tennis court, and a boathouse, and it had expansive views of Lake Sunapee and Mount Sunapee. Lot 5 is completely unimproved. For the 2012 tax year, the Trusts applied to classify the entirety of lot 5 and 1.7 acres of lot 2 for current use. The Board approved as to Lot 5 but denied as to the 1.7 acres of lot 2, finding that those acres constituted curtilage, which did not qualify for current use taxation.
The Supreme Court agreed that there was sufficient evidence for the Board to find that the 1.7-acre area of lot 2 was curtilage. The Board looked at several factors in making this determination. First, the area, including the pathways, was no different than the lawn and grounds immediately surrounding the main house and boathouse. Second, the natural growth in the area had been actively managed and maintained by the Trusts in order to maximize the scenic view from the main house. Finally, the proximity of the area to the main house and the pathways leading to the main house tended to show that the area’s use was directly related to the Trust’s use and enjoyment. Taking all of these facts together, the Board ultimately determined that the primary purpose of the land was servicing the main buildings on the property. Therefore, the 1.7 acres of lot 2 was curtilage and did not qualify for current use taxation.
In determining whether property constitutes open space or curtilage for the purposes of current use taxation, the primary inquiry is whether the property’s main purpose is servicing the main estate. If it does, the property does not qualify for current use taxation.