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New Jersey Turnpike Authority v. Township of Washington

Decided: December 4, 1975.

NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE AUTHORITY, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF WASHINGTON, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT. NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE AUTHORITY, PETITIONER-APPELLANT, V. TOWNSHIP OF MANALAPAN, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Allcorn, Kole and Gaulkin. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kole, J.A.D.

Kole

[137 NJSuper Page 545] These consolidated appeals arise from judgments of the Division of Tax Appeals against the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (Authority) and in favor of the Townships of Manalapan and Washington. The Authority had acquired two parcels of land in Manalapan, one pursuant to a condemnation proceeding*fn1 and one by purchase, in order to build an extension from the New Brunswick interchange to Toms River. It also had acquired tracts of land

in Washington, two pursuant to condemnation proceedings*fn2 and one by purchase, in order to build an interchange between the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 195. The judges of the Division of Tax Appeals determined that the lands so acquired by the Authority were subject to roll-back taxes under the Farmland Assessment Act of 1964, N.J.S.A. 54:4-23.1 et seq. The Authority appeals.

The Farmland Assessment Act of 1964 (the act) was constitutionally authorized, N.J. Const. (1947), Art. VIII, ยง I, para. 1, as amended in 1963, to further the following objectives:

(a) the desirability of continuing the family farm in New Jersey and the farmer's problem; (b) the interests of the municipalities and the problems of the assessors; and, finally, (c) the interests of all the people of New Jersey in maintaining "open" space, the beauty of our countryside and in the availability of agricultural products fresh from the farm.

Report of the Governor's Farm Land Assessment Committee (March 20, 1963). See also, Senate Committee on Revision and Amendment of Laws, Public Hearing on Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 16 , at 2 and 7, (April 15, 1963). To meet these objectives, generally the act authorizes the tax assessment of land actively devoted to agricultural or horticultural use at its value for those purposes alone, N.J.S.A. 54:4-23.2; 54:4-23.7. This assessed value is often less than that which the land would have if it were put to another use. See Terhune v. Franklin Tp. , 107 N.J. Super. 218 (App. Div. 1969); East Orange v. Livingston Tp. , 102 N.J. Super. 512 (Law Div. 1968), aff'd o.b. 54 N.J. 96 (1969).

When land which has been taxed under the act in previous years is applied to a use other than agricultural or horticultural,

it becomes subject to roll-back taxes. Generally, roll-back taxes are additional taxes "in an amount equal to the difference, if any, between the taxes paid or payable on the basis" of the special farmland assessment and "the taxes that would have been paid or payable had the land been * * * assessed and taxed as other land in the taxing district, in the current tax year (the year of change in use) and in such of the 2 tax years immediately preceding, in which the land was * * * assessed and taxed" as farmland.*fn3 N.J.S.A. 54:4-23.8.

The Authority contends that it should not be subject to these roll-back taxes because of N.J.S.A. 27:23-12, which specifically grants it a tax exemption for "any turnpike project or any property acquired or used by the Authority under the provisions of * * * [the Turnpike Authority] act * * *." The Authority's argument, however, is misplaced. In future years it will have an exemption from taxes on the land in question, provided the requirements of N.J.S.A. 27:23-12 are met. See New Jersey Turnpike Auth. v. Washington Tp. , 16 N.J. 38 (1954). Roll-back taxes involve a special situation to which that exemption statute does not apply. In the Farmland Assessment Act the Legislature has accorded a tax benefit to those using land for agricultural or horticultural purposes but requires some repayment when the use of the land is changed, irrespective of the nature of the new use -- e.g. , highways -- or the status of the person owning the land at the time of change in use.

Our determination that the lands here involved are subject to roll-back taxes is buttressed by the fact that prior to 1970 the act provided:

The taking of land which is being valued, assessed and taxed under this act by right of eminent domain shall not subject the land so taken to the roll-back ...


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