Miller, Edward S., J.s.c.
In this case which is apparently of first impression, the court is required to determine whether rollback taxes imposed under the authority of N.J.S.A. 54:4-23.8 must be imposed upon the owner of farmland condemned by the State of New Jersey under its powers of eminent domain, N.J.S.A. 20:1-1, et seq., or whether the additional taxes imposed shall be borne by the State. The facts are simple and uncontroverted.
Plaintiffs were the owners of certain land in Deptford Township, Gloucester County, New Jersey, which was required by the State for use as a portion of a proposed state highway, Route 55. This land, while adjacent to a residential district, was utilized as a single-family residence with farmland and was subject to special treatment under the Farmland Assessment Act of 1964, N.J.S.A. 54:4-23.1 et seq.
It being determined by the State that a portion of plaintiffs' lands were required for extension of Route 55, the State exercised its power of eminent domain, R.S. 20:3-1 et seq., and filed a declaration of taking as to the subject lands. Contemporaneously therewith, an action was properly filed under the condemnation statute. That action is still pending in a separate proceeding in this court.
Following the declaration of taking, the Township of Deptford applied to the Gloucester County Board of Taxation for a determination that the portion of plaintiffs' land taken, amounting
to 2.76 acres, is no longer eligible for farmland assessment and is subject to rollback taxes.
The county board made the determination that the portion taken is no longer eligible for farmland assessment and is subject to rollback taxes. Taxes were thereafter assessed by the Township of Deptford, the assessment satisfying neither the owners nor the State and a separate proceeding is pending in the New Jersey Tax Court as to the correctness and valuation of said assessment.
To resolve the dispute as to whether the additional taxes chargeable under the statute should be paid by the State or by the owners, the owners filed this action seeking an adjudication by this court that the rollback taxes in question are the obligation of the State of New Jersey as the taker and not of the plaintiffs as the former owners.
The State filed an answer and upon the return day of an order to show cause, it was agreed by counsel that the facts were undisputed and that the court should proceed to settle this matter as if on cross-motions for summary judgment. It now devolves upon the Court to pronounce that judgment which it conceives the law requires.
There is surprisingly little judicial treatment of this question.
The Farmland Assessment Act, (hereinafter the act) N.J.S.A. 54:4-23.1 et seq., was enacted pursuant to a constitutional mandate whose primary purpose was to encourage the maintenance and preservation of farmland. Andover Township v. Kymer, 140 N.J. Super. 399, 404 (App.Div.1976); Terhune v. Franklin Township, 107 N.J. Super. 218, 220-221 (App.Div.1969). The value of land for farming is usually less than its value for other purposes. The act intended to counter the adverse impact of taxation on farmland by assessing the land based on the lower valuation. Terhune, 107 N.J. Super. at 220. In extending this special tax ...