Parker County Appraisal District v. James D. Francis, No. 02-13-00182-CV (Second Court of Appeals – Fort Worth) 
(June 19, 2014)


In this case, the Parker County Appraisal District appealed a decision of the trial court in favor of James D. Francis, the property owner. The principal issue in the case was “whether under the Tax Code a tract of property may qualify for the residence homestead exemption and the open-space land valuation at the same time.” Francis owned three contiguous tracts of land: a three acre tract (which had been granted an open space land valuation), a one acre tract (on which Francis’ home is located), and a nine acre tract of land. In 2010 and 2011, Francis applied for the residence homestead exemption on the three acre tract. The applications were denied by the appraisal district and the appraisal review board. On appeal to the district court, the court ruled in favor of Francis applying the residence homestead exemption to the three-acre tract and also valued the tract as open-space land for 2010 and 2011. The appraisal district appealed the trial court ruling in favor of Francis claiming that the trial court erred as a “matter of law by holding that the three-acre tract qualified for both open-space land valuation and also a residence homestead exemption.” After describing the relevant Tax Code provisions, the court states: “…Francis argues, and we agree, that juxtaposing section 23.25 [Appraisal of Land Used for Single-Family Residential Purposes That Is Contiguous to Agricultural or Open-Space Land with Common Ownership] and Section 23.01(d) [market value of a residence homestead] , the tax code implicitly contemplates that under the circumstances existing here, a parcel of land may qualify for both the residence homestead exemption and the open-space land valuation.” The appellate court also agrees with Francis’s contention that “had the legislature intended to preclude open-space land from also being used as a residence homestead, it could have utilized the phrase “designated for agricultural use” in setting the criteria for open-space land as it did in setting the criteria for agricultural-use land.” The appellate court also agrees with Francis’s argument based on Sec. 23.55(i) “that if the ‘use’ of the open-space land does not change when the residence homestead exemption is claimed on the open-space land, then the use is still principally agricultural, and the open-space land is still qualified to be open-space land and to receive the open-space land valuation.” Consequently to hold that qualified open-space land may not subsequently and simultaneously be claimed as part of a residence homestead would render Sec. 23.55(i) meaningless. Based on these arguments the appellate court affirms the trial court judgment and holds that Francis’ three-acre tract qualified for both the residence homestead exemption and the open-space land valuation of the years 2010 and 2011.