Kolovsky, Lynch and Allcorn. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lynch, J.A.D.
Over two years ago, on June 4, 1973, this court remanded this matter (together with a companion case, Mobil Oil Corp. v. Englewood Cliffs, Docket A-498-72), to the Division of Tax Appeals (Division) for a new hearing and for the making of "adequate findings of fact and conclusions of law, together with an expression of reasons for the finding and conclusions." We specifically pointed to two areas to be considered in such findings and conclusions, namely:
(1) The land lease for 15,000 net a year from Nichols to Humble Oil and Refining Company (Humble), and
(2) The relevance and usefulness of the "gallonage" standard in valuing the subject property. As to the latter, we directed attention to the case of Aetna Life Insurance Co. v. Newark, 10 N.J. 99, 108-109 (1952).
We also called attention to Van Realty, Inc. v. City of Passaic, 117 N.J. Super. 425 (App. Div. 1971), and Parkview Village Ass'n. v. Collingswood, 62 N.J. 21 (1972), in the hope that the Division judge, after remand, would heed the guidelines there set out as to the nature of, and the necessity for, adequate findings and conclusions. See also
After our remand further testimony was taken by the Division judge on August 29, 1973. A written opinion was subsequently rendered and a judgment entered on April 23, 1974. While we consider that the instructions in the cases cited and in our remanding opinion herein were clear and explicit, apparently they were not understood by the Division judge. His opinion after remand is totally lacking in adequate findings, conclusions and attendant reasons.
Tax litigation should not be prolonged and should be brought to an end with definiteness if possible. Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Newark, supra, 10 N.J. at 103. This is so because of the necessity for some stability in municipal finances as well as similar interests of a taxpayer. Recognizing the abortive result of our prior remand with consequent delay, we feel compelled to assume the original jurisdiction which we may invoke under R. 2:10-5. Accordingly, we make our own findings and conclusions.
This appeal involves the 1969 and 1970 assessments on the property involved, a parcel of land of approximately 18,000 square feet which is used for a gasoline station and automobile repair facility. The property was assessed for those years as follows: land, $170,000; improvements, $26,300; total, $196,300. Neither party disputes the assessment of the improvements. Humble appealed to the Division which, after our remand, reduced the land assessment to $101,365. The borough appeals to this court.
The property was leased in 1964 for a 20-year term by its owner, Virginia Nichols, to Humble, for a net annual rental of $15,000, with all costs of maintenance, real estate taxes, etc., being borne by the lessee. The lease also granted Humble options to renew for four additional five-year terms and Humble was free to demolish the then existing service station building and to construct another in its place. This was accomplished in 1967. Humble, in turn, leased the property
(including land, building, tanks, pumps, signs, lights, compressor and lifts) to third-party ...