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Tower Center Associates v. Township of East Brunswick

January 8, 1996

TOWER CENTER ASSOCIATES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF EAST BRUNSWICK, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Tax Court of New Jersey.

Approved for Publication January 8, 1996.

Before Judges Stern, Wallace and Newman. *fn1 The opinion of the court was delivered by Stern, J.A.D.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stern

The opinion of the court was delivered by STERN, J.A.D.

In these consolidated matters plaintiff-taxpayer appeals from judgments of the Tax Court which sustained 1992 and 1993 assessments regarding plaintiff's commercial complex.

In both cases, defendant Township filed a motion to dismiss the complaint because of plaintiff's failure to comply with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 54:4-34 by not responding to the assessor's written request for financial information within the forty-five day time limit prescribed by the statute. In both cases Judge Michael A. Andrew, Jr., declined to dismiss the appeal, but prohibited the taxpayer from introducing proof of value at the hearing. The Judge held that, in accordance with Ocean Pines Ltd. v. Borough of Point Pleasant, 112 N.J. 1, 547 A.2d 691 (1988), plaintiff was entitled to a hearing only on the "reasonableness of the underlying data available to the assessor and the reasonableness of the methodology used by the assessor in arriving at the assessment."

After an evidentiary hearing, the Judge found that "the underlying valuation data utilized by the Assessor and the methodology employed by the Assessor in arriving at the assessment" for 1992 were reasonable. He, therefore, sustained the assessment and dismissed the complaint on the merits. Plaintiff waived the "reasonableness" hearing with respect to the 1993 assessment and the second case was also dismissed with prejudice.

The underlying facts are as follows. On June 14, 1991, the East Brunswick tax assessor mailed, by certified mail return receipt requested, two separate, written requests to plaintiff for income and expense information relating to its two separately assessed properties in the Township. The assessor received the return receipt cards indicating that the certified letters had been received. However, he received no response from the taxpayer. The assessor's letter read, in pertinent part:

In the interests of equitable valuations for property tax purposes, it is essential that this office have complete records and be acquainted with rental values and operating expenses.

I am enclosing forms to be utilized for an itemized schedule of all rentals and expenses involved in the operation of the property. In the case of business buildings with term leases, it is essential that all details of the lease be disclosed, such as expiration dates, options for renewal, fixed rentals, tax escalator and maintenance clauses and specific identity of the area occupied.

Under "Income and Expenses", enter your most recent twelve month (January 1, 1990 through December 31, 1990) operational costs to the extent that such expense is actually paid by management.

Attached is a copy of the Statute of the State of New Jersey 54:4-34, amended L.1979 c 91 p.1, as required. *fn2

The Assessor of East Brunswick is committed to equality in taxation and your full cooperation in filing this informational return will be of material aid to this end.

If you have any questions concerning the completion of this form, please contact my office. Be assured that this information ...


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