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DePasquale v. Cwiek

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

January 14, 2016

Mark DePasquale et al.
v.
Linda Cwiek, in her capacity as Tax Assessor for the Town of North Kingstown

Page 73

Washington County Superior Court. (WC 14-117). Associate Justice Kristin E. Rodgers.

For Plaintiffs: Lauren E. Jones, Esq., Seth H. Handy, Esq.

For Defendant: James H. Reilly, Esq.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

OPINION

Page 74

Gilbert V. Indeglia, Justice.

In this matter, we are faced with determining whether a wind turbine is exempt from local property taxation. The defendant, Linda Cwiek, in her capacity as Tax Assessor for the Town of North Kingstown (the town or defendant), appeals from an order granting summary judgment against her and in favor of Mark and June DePasquale (the DePasquales or plaintiffs). On December 10, 2015, this case came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised should not be summarily decided. After hearing the arguments of counsel and reviewing the memoranda submitted on behalf of the parties, we are satisfied that cause has not been shown. Accordingly, we shall decide the appeal at this time without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

I

Facts and Travel

The facts of this case are straightforward and undisputed. In 2011, the DePasquales allowed a wind turbine to be built[1] on their property located at 42 Thorton Way in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. This turbine produces electricity which is sold directly to National Grid pursuant to a standard Power Purchase Agreement, conforming with G.L. 1956 chapter 26.2 of title 39. Importantly, none of the electricity produced by this wind turbine is sold to the public.

On December 31, 2012, the town assessed the DePasquale wind turbine at a value of $1.9 million and issued a tax bill seeking the payment of annual tangible personal property taxes. The DePasquales took the position that the wind turbine was tax-exempt and, on that basis, appealed the assessment to the North Kingstown Tax Assessor and then to the North Kingstown Tax Board of Review, both of which denied their appeal. On March 5, 2014, the DePasquales filed the instant action in Superior Court and, after some discovery was conducted, filed a motion for summary judgment. After hearing argument from both parties, the hearing justice concluded that, based on her interpretation of the statutes and applicable case law, " [the] wind turbine must be determined to be manufacturing equipment that is exempt from taxation." Accordingly,

Page 75

the hearing justice granted the DePasquales' motion for summary judgment. The town timely ...


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