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Frieman v. Town of Randolf

Decided: April 6, 1987.

FRIEMAN, JACK, C/O DONALD LEGOW, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF RANDOLPH (MORRIS COUNTY), DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT. WADLE & LOMAKIN ASSOC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT, V. TOWNSHIP OF EDISON, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



On appeal from Final Judgment of the Tax Court whose opinion in Frieman v. Randolph Tp. is reported at 8 N.J. Tax 264.

Furman, Dreier and Shebell. The opinion of the court was delivered by Furman, P.J.A.D.

Furman

The two taxpayer appeals before us were consolidated because of the common issue of the validity of so-called spot assessments. The Tax Court judgments on appeal affirmed reassessments of plaintiffs' properties one to three years subsequent to district-wide revaluations, as part of limited reassessment programs for properties of certain classes, industrial and commercial properties in Edison Township and apartment complexes in Randolph Township. See Frieman v. Randolph Tp., 8 N.J. Tax 264 (Tax Ct.1986). We affirm.

In Edison Township, a district-wide revaluation was carried out for the 1983 tax year. Because of concern that industrial

and commercial properties had been underassessed, shifting the tax base more towards residential properties, a new study was conducted by the township in 1983, with the concurrence of the County Board of Taxation. As a result of its findings, several appeals to the County Board of Taxation were taken by the township; and the assessments of about half of more than 900 industrial and commercial properties were increased for the 1984 tax year, based upon modifications in income capitalization and depreciation schedules. The assessment for improvements on the commercial property of plaintiff Wadle & Lomakin Associates was increased from $1,113,300 to $1,520,100.

In Randolph Township a district-wide revaluation was carried out in 1982. During 1983 the municipal rent control ordinance was amended to permit re-rental at full market value whenever a rental unit was vacated. Because of that amendment the four apartment complexes within the township were reassessed for the 1985 tax year to reflect the market value effect of so-called vacancy decontrol. The assessment for improvements on plaintiff Frieman's apartment complex was increased from $2,531,800 to $3,752,000.

On both appeals, plaintiffs argue their entitlement to relief from discriminatory spot assessing under Baldwin Const. Co. v. Essex County Bd. of Taxation, 16 N.J. 329 (1954). Baldwin is factually distinguishable. There, the County Board of Taxation had selected geographical areas for revaluation, e.g., about 62 out of 1650 parcels in the City of East Orange. According to the trial judge, the result was an arbitrary increase of assessments on particular properties, "disregarding all like properties", and an increase of "all assessments within a limited area, disregarding all properties outside that area", culminating in a "disproportionate tax burden." Id. at 338. Here, in both townships the selection of properties for revaluation was not arbitrary but based upon a reasonable assumption that, as classes of properties, they might be underassessed; all

properties within each of the affected classes were in fact reassessed.

Alternatively, plaintiffs argue that: "If spot assessment is allowable, at very least it should be at ratio." They seek relief under N.J.S.A. 54:51A-6, which provide relief for taxpayers whose assessment to true value ratio exceeds 15% above the average ratio for the taxing district or whose assessment to true value ratio exceeds the county percentage level.

Plaintiff Wadle & Lomakin Associates is barred from relief under N.J.S.A. 54:51A-6 because it offered no proof, and no finding was separately made, of the true value of its property. See Rodwood Gardens Inc. v. Summit, 188 N.J. Super. 34, 43 (App.Div.1982).

Plaintiff Freiman is also barred from relief under N.J.S.A. 54:51A-6. The Tax Court Judge found the assessed value of his property to be 97% of its true value, well within the common level range of 15% above the township's average ratio of about 95%. The township's average ratio was below the county percentage level of 100%, but the ratio of plaintiff Frieman's assessed value to true value was also below the county percentage level. Thus, a remedy for discrimination under N.J.S.A. 54:51A-6, (b) was precluded. Nor is there any merit to plaintiff Frieman's argument that he should be entitled, notwithstanding N.J.S.A. 54:51A-6, to a reduction of his assessment from ...


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