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Yisroel v. Township of Millburn

Decided: March 24, 1955.

CONGREGATION B'NAI YISROEL, APPELLANT,
v.
THE TOWNSHIP OF MILLBURN IN THE COUNTY OF ESSEX, AND DIVISION OF TAX APPEALS, DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, RESPONDENTS



Clapp, Jayne and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Clapp, S.j.a.d.

Clapp

The Congregation B'Nai Yisroel appeals from a judgment of the Division of Tax Appeals denying it an exemption as to certain land owned by it in Millburn, N.J., which was used for the parking of automobiles by those attending the Congregation. The issue, as it is stated by Millburn, calls for a construction of that portion of R.S. 54:4-3.6 italicized below:

"The following property shall be exempt from taxation under this chapter * * * all buildings actually and exclusively used for * * * religious worship * * * all buildings actually and exclusively used in the work of associations and corporations organized exclusively * * * for religious, charitable or hospital purposes,

or for one or more of such purposes; * * * the land whereon any of the buildings hereinbefore mentioned are erected , and which may be necessary for the fair enjoyment thereof, and which is devoted to the purposes above-mentioned and to no other purpose and does not exceed five acres in extent * * *."

The Congregation bought from Millburn less than five acres of land, including that above mentioned, subject to a covenant restricting the whole of it to (putting the matter generally) religious purposes. By ordinance adopted July 5, 1949, some months before the delivery of the deed, Millburn directed the conveyance to be made to the Congregation subject to those restrictions, and furthermore it vacated a street running through the property. The vacation of the street gave rise to litigation on the part of other land owners; and in order to settle the matter, it was agreed by Millburn and the Congregation that immediately on the passage of title to the Congregation, the street would be rededicated, and Millburn would accept the dedication.

The street, a 50-foot strip, thus came to be dedicated and accepted. It severs the premises into two parcels. On one of the parcels, as to which an exemption has been granted, a synagogue was erected. The other parcel, the property with which we are concerned, was on the assessment date, and still is, used for the parking of vehicles by those attending the synagogue.

Both parcels and the 50-foot strip were acquired through one deed. Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth v. Cory, Coll'r , 73 N.J.L. 699, 703 (E. & A. 1907); Stevens Institute of Technology v. Bowes , 78 N.J.L. 205 (Sup. Ct. 1909). But in the deed they were described respectively as three separate tracts. However, Millburn makes no point of this; the three contiguous tracts could very simply have been described by a surveyor as one parcel and included in the deed as such.

Nor does Millburn argue that such a parking lot is not "necessary for the fair enjoyment " of the synagogue. In fact a year after the assessment date here, Millburn adopted an ordinance requiring new buildings of various sorts, including synagogues, to provide areas for off-street parking.

The single issue is whether, by reason of the divisive effect of the street, the parcel used for a parking area can be said to be, in the words of R.S. 54:4-3.6,

"the land whereon any of the buildings hereinbefore mentioned [the synagogue] are erected * * *."

These none too fortunate words constitute one of the conditions which must be met by land if it is to be accorded an exemption. Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth v. Cory, Coll'r , 73 N.J.L. 699, 703 (E. & A. 1907), supra. Literally they have reference only to the ground directly under the buildings. But this plainly is not their intendment, because the next words in ...


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