On appeal from State of New Jersey, Department of the Treasury, Division of Tax Appeals.
Lora, Michels and Larner. The opinion of the court was delivered by Larner, J.A.D.
[163 NJSuper Page 565] This is an appeal by the Borough of Harvey Cedars from a determination by the Division of Tax Appeals which granted tax exempt status for all the land and buildings of respondent Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, except for a three-acre parcel which was valued at $9,000. This was the culmination of appeals from the denial of an exemption on an application filed with the local tax assessor on or about October 31, 1974 for the 1975 tax year.
The property in question is comprised of a complex of buildings on an 11-acre parcel of land situated between the bay and the ocean on Long Beach Island in the Borough of Harvey Cedars. The local tax assessor assessed the total lands and buildings for the 1975 tax year at $716,350.
The property was acquired in 1959 by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, a religious corporation organized by act of the Legislature adopted March 11, 1873. The object of the corporation as expressed in its constitution and in the act of incorporation is:
Between 1959 and 1975, the corporation paid the taxes pursuant to the local assessments and made no claim for exemption until October 31, 1974.
The evidence before the Division was substantially undisputed. The direct activities of the organization within the framework of its corporate objects are not conducted at the premises in question but at several other locations in the State of New Jersey, where it maintains and operates schools, children's residences and a hospital. It is at these facilities that the nuns, priests, nurses, etc., are assigned to carry on the charitable work of the corporation.
The Harvey Cedars complex is utilized in the main as a facility for rest and relaxation of the sisters and clergy in the summer season. These participants in the work of the charity sojourn to the beach facility for varied periods during the summer, utilizing the facilities for both religious retreats and vacation purposes, to get away from their everyday work and routine. In the off-season some of the buildings in the complex are used for religious retreats and meetings by clergy and lay groups and organizations. Most of the buildings are designed as dormitories for housing, with meeting rooms where the retreats or meeting sessions are
held and workshops are conducted for the sisters and priests related to educational purposes.
There are a total of eight buildings involved, with two of them on a parcel of ocean-front land of approximately 2 1/2 acres between the ocean and Long Beach Boulevard which separates this parcel from that fronting on the bay. One of these is a large residence with 32 bedrooms and the other is a shower house. The remaining six buildings are located between the Boulevard and the bay on approximately 8 1/2 acres of land.
In addition to housing facilities already described, the bay parcel has thereon a "round house" used as a residence for Sister Ann, the administrator who lives on the property all year round, and a chapel designed and used exclusively for worship with regular masses for the public during the summer season.
On the basis of the foregoing facts, which we have summarized in general terms, the Division judge found that all the buildings were used for "religious and meditative purposes." He further articulated his ...