Randall, Minn. – Jeff Hardy’s got a deer stand on 40 acres of land in northwestern Morrison County, but it may not be there much longer.
That’s because the county wants him to pay property taxes on it.
“I’m not paying taxes on it,” Hardy said. “I’ll tear it down before I do that. It’s not a taxable structure.”
County officials beg to differ.
The deer stand, which is 8 feet by 16 feet, has vinyl siding and sits 10 feet in the air on telephone poles. It also has windows, stairs leading up to it, and a shooting deck. When Hardy constructed it, he made sure he wasn’t required to have a building permit. It doesn’t violate any planning and zoning ordinances, he said.
Gale Zimmerman, of the county assessor’s office, says the deer stand reminds him of a storage shed or a bunkhouse. He says he’s never seen such an elaborate one.
“To me, it’s a structure – it’s more elaborate than a typical deer stand,” Zimmerman said. “My initial thought is it is going to be valued,” (which would require Hardy pay taxes on it).
The taxes would be payable in 2012, though there is an appeals process if Hardy disagrees on the valuation the county places on it. Zimmerman figures taxes would be about $40 per year.
“By all definitions, it doesn’t fit into the category of cold storage, a garage, or a house,” Hardy said. “It’s nothing other than a deer stand. It shouldn’t matter how fancy you make it.”
Hardy bowhunts and rifle hunts from the stand, which is near food plots. His wife and kids also hunt from it, and his 11-year-old shot his first deer with a bow from it last year.
“The gentleman I bought the property from is elderly and expressed an interest in hunting, but he gets cold easily and can’t walk up a ladder,” Hardy said. “My kids are young and are just getting started hunting. Rather than going out there and freezing them to death on their first hunts, they can actually go in and warm up.”
Hardy said Zimmerman told him if the stand were used only for hunting deer, that it would be treated as such. Hardy said he and other family members have spent the night in the stand.
“By all definitions, it’s a temporary structure,” he said. “It’s a deer stand.”
The deer stand “looked to have more utility than other deer stands I’ve seen,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a bunkhouse up on stilts as much as it is a deer stand.”
To Zimmerman’s knowledge, this is the first time such a question has come up in Morrison County.
When the county figures property taxes, it attempts to value items based on how they would sell in the marketplace. The bottom line is whether they contribute value to the property, Zimmerman said.
“There isn’t anything that says deer stands are exempt from being taxed,” he said. “But they don’t necessarily add value. I have seen a number of deer stands and they are usually just used for deer stands and they are really not suitable for anything else.”