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Forsyth v. Township of Lacey

Decided: November 30, 1978.

JOSEPH B. FORSYTH, PETITIONER-RESPONDENT AND CROSS-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF LACEY, APPELLANT AND CROSS-RESPONDENT



On appeal from the Division of Tax Appeals.

Matthews and Milmed. The opinion of the court was delivered by Milmed, J.A.D.

Milmed

[167 NJSuper Page 199] These are appeals and cross-appeals from judgments of the Division of Tax Appeals (Division) concerning local property assessments for the years 1974 and

1975 on lots 16, 17 and 24 in Block 520 and lot 4 in Block 630, comprising some 260 acres of vacant land in the Township of Lacey (township) in Ocean County.

Lot 4 in Block 630 was assessed by the township at $131,400 for 1974. On appeal the Ocean County Board of Taxation (county board) reduced the assessment to $98,550, at which figure the township assessed the lot for the year 1975.*fn1 The taxpayer's other parcel of vacant land, lots 16, 17 and 24 in Block 520, was assessed for each of the two tax years, 1974 and 1975, at $227,510. On appeal to the county board the assessment was reduced to $170,630.

The township appealed to the Division and the petitioner-taxpayer cross-appealed. At the hearing before the Division judge the expert for the taxpayer, a certified tax assessor, testified that the property was "95 percent swamp and wetlands," and that the remaining five percent "may be high ground." He said that in his opinion the "State Wetlands Act," viz. , The Wetlands Act of 1970, L. 1970, c. 272, N.J.S.A. 13:9A-1 et seq. , rendered the property worthless. Nonetheless, suggesting that he was using the market data (comparable sales) approach to valuation, he estimated the value of the subject property to be $100 an acre, stating:

The only basis I have to go on here is the fact that the meadowlands has been traditionally sold as either gunning, travel, trapping properties, fishing rights and the market over the years has started out way back when the Parkway went through when they were only paying $8 to $12 an acre for meadowland when they went through it.

The gunners were willing to pay $50 to $100 an acre lately for good gunning ground, but it had to be good gunning ground before they would pay that money.

He also indicated that there may be a title problem in regard

to the land, i.e. , if it is established that it is tidal land, ownership would be in the State.

The basic sale upon which the expert for the taxpayer relied was one which was completed on September 24, 1976, some three months before the Division hearing, i.e. , the sale of 10.28 acres of bay front land adjoining the subject property to the south for $1,000. He said the property was "all wetlands" and "good gunning property." That sale was from Rutherford Stout and Hannah Stout, his wife, to Daniel R. Guss and Kathleen Guss, his wife. The property had been used by the Stout's Creek Gun Club of which ...


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