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Tax Appeal of Kaheawa Wind Power, LLC — The Documents

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This case is about wind turbines mounted on high ground in Maui.  The County assessed real property tax on the value of the turbines, contending that they are improvements to land.  The Tax Appeal Court and the Intermediate Court of Appeals concluded that the turbines were machinery that was not taxable under Maui’s real property tax.  Kaheawa Wind Power, LLC v. County of Maui, 135 Haw. 202, 347 P.3d 632 (Ct. App. 2014), cert. denied, No. SCWC-12-0000728 (Haw. Feb. 19, 2015).  The Maui county government then amended its ordinance defining real property for tax purposes, Maui County Code § 3.48.005, to include wind turbines explicitly.  Maui Ord. 4013 (2013).  The turbines were assessed again, and the principal dispute this time is whether the Maui county government had the right to do that.  The Hawaii Tax Appeal Court held that it did not, and Maui County appealed.

The real danger lurking in the background is this.  If Maui County wins, what’s to stop a county from amending its real property ordinance to include other big machines, or trucks, or MRI scanners, or anything else that a business or individual might own?

Only some of the documents in the appellate case file are included here.

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