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Heather Holding Co. v. Division of Tax Appeals

Decided: June 14, 1955.

HEATHER HOLDING CO., A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DIVISION OF TAX APPEALS IN THE DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, ESSEX COUNTY BOARD OF TAXATION, AND CITY OF NEWARK, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Clapp, Jayne and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Francis, J.A.D.

Francis

Plaintiff sought relief in the Essex County Board of Taxation from the 1952 and 1953 assessment of certain real estate owned by it in the City of Newark. Both petitions of appeal accepted the land valuation. The sole ground of attack was the contention that the assessment of the buildings was in excess of true value. In each instance after hearing, the board decided that the property had not been valued "excessively."

New appeals were filed with the Division of Tax Appeals. Each petition again asserted the same ground for relief.

Following hearing, at which the contending parties offered expert proof of true value, decision was reserved.

Although the testimony of the experts is not involved in the matter before us, we observe that the property owner's witness fixed the value of the buildings (office building and garage) at $330,000. On the other hand, the expert for the municipality testified to a value of $657,500 as reproduction cost and an economic value of $600,000 for 1952 and $607,000 for 1953. In addition, he adduced proof of a sale of the premises in August 1947 for $900,412.

The municipal assessments were the same for both 1952 and 1953: $23,300 on the land and $363,000 on the buildings.

Prior to the decision by the Division, the opinion of the Supreme Court came down in Baldwin Construction Co. v. Essex County Board of Taxation , 16 N.J. 329 (October 25, 1954). In that case property owners were permitted to attack discriminatory assessments in the Law Division of the Superior Court even though they had not prosecuted the statutory appeals to the county and state tax boards. And it was held that a discriminatory valuation, when imposed by a county tax board in the attempted exercise of its statutory function to examine, revise and correct the local assessors' tax lists and duplicates (R.S. 54:4-47), would be vacated.

On the basis of that decision the Heather Company moved before the Division of Tax Appeals to reopen the hearing to permit such proof of discrimination as would establish the invalidity of the assessment.

No affidavits or other supporting proof were attached to the notice of motion. The matter was argued on December 2, 1954. So far as the record shows no testimony was taken at that time and we are in the dark as to the exact nature of the proof, if any, which was offered to indicate the pertinency of the Baldwin case. In any event, on December 9 the motion was denied.

Shortly thereafter memorandums were filed by the commissioners who conducted the hearing on the appeal. They

contained a discussion of the conflicting evidence as to value and concluded with the declaration that the taxpayer had not sustained the burden of proving ...


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