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McQueen v. Town of West New York

Decided: April 20, 1970.

ARTHUR AND MATILDA MCQUEEN, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
TOWN OF WEST NEW YORK IN THE COUNTY OF HUDSON, BERNARD J. MCDONALD, TAX COLLECTOR OF THE SAID TOWN OF WEST NEW YORK, AND THE BOARD OF ASSESSORS OF THE SAID TOWN OF WEST NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



For remandment -- Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Haneman. Opposed -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Haneman, J.

Haneman

This appeal concerns a special assessment levied by Town of West New York (West New York) pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:56-1 et seq.

In 1954 West New York by ordinance authorized the construction of a parking lot commonly known as Van Buren Parking Lot. In 1955 said town also by ordinance authorized the construction of a parking lot known as Madison Parking Lot. The ordinances each provided for the completion of the facilities as a local improvement as provided by N.J.S.A. 40:56-1 et seq.

In 1957, a board of special assessors levied assessments against the properties allegedly benefited by the improvement, which assessments having been attacked by an Action in Lieu of Prerogative Writs, were set aside. A reassessment was similarly voided (for a more complete history see Kastens v. West New York, 88 N.J. Super. 224 (App. Div. 1965)).

On November 2, 1961, in pursuance of a resolution of the governing body, the Board of Assessors proceeded to levy a third assessment. The assessment plans were presented at a public hearing on September 16, 1963. The method of levying the tax which the Board adopted was as follows: The true value of the lands allegedly benefited was established for the periods 1955-1957 and 1961-1963 by a market report prepared by a tax research analyst. The report indicated that the property not in the parking area increased in valuation from the 1955-1957 period to 1961-1963 period by 24.56% and that the property in the parking area increased 37.46%. The 12.90% difference between the relative gains in the different sections was attributed to the parking facilities. The Board concluded that there was between a 10% and 15% increase in the 1957 assessed value of all properties in the vicinity of and attributable to the parking lots. The assessment for general taxes for 1957 was based neither on true value nor common level. A true reevaluation report

was made for 1958 which was not, however, adopted by the municipality as a general assessment basis. The Board used the 1957 assessed value as the base for its special tax computation. After applying 10% to the 1957 assessed value of the lots in the parking area section, except those fronting on the facility, and as to these latter, 15%, it was discovered that the total raised by such an assessment exceeded the actual cost of the improvement. The individual assessments were then reduced by 12% which brought the total somewhat below the actual cost and in conformity with the statute, N.J.S.A. 40:56-24.

Subsequent to the completion of construction, parking meters were installed in the parking lots. Since April 1965, the lots have been operated by an independent parking authority under a contract which provides that the authority may not use the revenues from the lots without permission of the town.

Plaintiffs filed an Action in Lieu of Prerogative Writs contesting the validity of the assessment which was confirmed after trial by the Law Division in an unreported opinion. Plaintiffs then appealed to the Appellate Division which in turn affirmed substantially for the reasons given by the Law Division. This Court granted plaintiffs' petition for certification, 54 N.J. 521 (1969). The order granting certification provided that petitioners were to argue particularly:

(1) the question whether the valuations determined by a reevaluation should be used in allocating the assessment; and

(2) whether all or some part of the cost of the improvement should be borne by general taxation because of parking meter revenues.

Plaintiffs advance a number of grounds as bases for reversal. Of these we shall discuss only the question of the validity of the assessment and the above quoted two noted questions. We find the balance without ...


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