Feller, J.s.c. (retired, temporarily assigned on recall).
This is an action in lieu of prerogative writs. Plaintiff Springfield Township seeks a declaratory judgment that taxes are due and owing to it and directing payment of same by defendants.
On or about July 31, 1974 the Union County Park Commission (Commission) filed a complaint in condemnation for certain parcels of real property located in Springfield Township. The premises were privately owned by the Celanese Corporation at the time the complaint was filed. Final judgment fixing compensation was entered July 21, 1976.
The Commission did not serve the Springfield Tax Assessor with a separate notice of the condemnation or acquisition of said parcel, in accordance with N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.3b. It has failed and refused to pay taxes imposed by the township on the real property in question.
Plaintiff contends that applicable case law and statutory authority, namely N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.3a and N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.3b requires payment of these taxes for the balance of the year 1976 and for the year 1977.
The above statutes read as follows:
54:4-3.3a. Real property acquired by the State or by a State agency or by an authority created by the State, shall not be exempt from taxation during the period following such acquisition as prescribed in this act. [ L. 1971, c. 370 § 1]
54:4-3.3b. Where real property is acquired by the State or by a State agency or by an authority created by the State, by purchase, condemnation or otherwise, such property shall become tax exempt on January 1 of the calendar year next following the date of acquisition, provided that the tax assessor of the municipality in which such property is located is given written notice of the acquisition by certified mail on or before January 10 of said calendar year next following; provided further that if real property is acquired between January 1 and January 10 inclusive, and the prescribed notice is given on or before January 10, such real property shall become tax exempt as of the date of acquisition. [ L. 1971, c. 370, § 2]
Defendant Commission contends that the above statutes are not applicable, that it is not liable for taxes under the same and that it is immune from liability under the terms of N.J.S.A. 40:37-101, entitled "Establishment and location of parks; acquisition of property; rules and regulations":
The commission may acquire, maintain and make available to the inhabitants of the county wherein it is appointed, and to the public, parks and open spaces for public resort and recreation; may locate such public parks and places within the limits of the county; and for these purposes may take in fee or otherwise, by purchase, gift, devise or eminent domain, lands or any right or interest therein for public parks and open spaces within the county. Deeds of conveyance therefor shall be made to the commission by its corporate name, and
it shall preserve, care for, lay out and improve any such parks and places, and make rules for the use and government of the same. The real estate so taken, and all buildings and improvements which may be placed thereon shall be exempt from all taxes, assessments and municipal liens. [ L. 1907, c. 95, § 2]
As a result of the decision in Union Cty. Park Comm'n v. Union Cty. , 154 N.J. Super. 213 (Law Div. 1976), aff'd o.b. 154 N.J. Super. 125 (App. Div. 1977), certif. den. 75 N.J. 531 (1977), the Union County Park Commission ceased to be an autonomous body as of June 1, 1978 and became a department or division of Union County.
An amended complaint was filed joining Union County as a party defendant. An answer was filed and an amended pretrial order executed in which Union County adopted all of the contentions and arguments previously presented to the court by the Commission.
There are no issues of material ...