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City of Atlantic City v. Greate Bay Hotel and Casino Inc.

May 16, 1997

CITY OF ATLANTIC CITY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GREATE BAY HOTEL AND CASINO, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rimm

This is Chapter III in the ongoing saga of dual filings for the same property for the same tax year, one filing in the Tax Court and one filing in a county board of taxation. The filings were made under N. J. S. A. 54:3-21, which provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

A taxpayer feeling aggrieved by the assessed valuation of his property, or feeling that he is discriminated against by the assessed valuation of other property in the county, or a taxing district which may feel discriminated against by the assessed valuation of property in the taxing district, . . ., may on or before April 1 appeal to the county board of taxation by filing with it a petition of appeal; provided, however, that any such taxpayer or taxing district may on or before April 1 file a complaint directly with the tax court, if the assessed valuation of the property subject to the appeal exceeds $750,000.00.

The four properties at issue constitute the Sands Casino Hotel and are owned by defendant, Greate Bay Hotel and Casino, Inc. (hereafter, "Greate Bay"). They are located in plaintiff, City of Atlantic City (hereafter "the City"). The properties were assessed as follows for the 1997 tax year:

Block 26, Lot 119.02

Land $657,000

Improvements 5,824,200

Total $6,481,200

Block 26, Lot 191

Land $3,032,600

Improvements 6,196,000

Total $9,228,600

Block 26, Lot 192

Land $4,947,800

Improvements 16,905,700

Total $21,853,500

Block 30, Lot 60

Land $26,928,000

Improvements 195,720,200

Total $222,648,200.

Greate Bay filed petitions of appeal with the Atlantic County Board of Taxation on March 31, 1997 challenging the assessments. On April 1, 1997, the City filed four complaints in the Tax Court challenging the assessments on the same four properties for which Greate Bay had filed in the county board.

The matters were before me on the motion of defendant, Greate Bay, to transfer the four 1997 Tax Court complaints filed against Greate Bay by plaintiff, the City, to the Atlantic County Board of Taxation. The motion was made pursuant to R. 1:13-4(a) which provides that, if a court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over an action, the action shall be transferred to the proper court or administrative agency having such jurisdiction.

In response to the motion, the City filed a cross-motion, seeking an order determining exclusive jurisdiction over these four matters to be in the Tax Court.

On the return day of the motions, I ruled that the Tax Court has jurisdiction over these matters. I denied Greate Bay's motion to transfer the four complaints to the Atlantic County Board of Taxation, and I granted the municipality's cross-motion and directed the taxpayer to dismiss the four petitions of appeal filed with the Atlantic County Board of Taxation. This opinion now amplifies and expands the decision rendered at the time of the hearing.

I

The Three Chapters

Chapter I was Union City Assocs. v. City of Union City, 115 N. J. 17 (1989). In that case, the same party, the taxpayer, filed for the same property for the same tax year in both the Tax Court and in the county board of taxation, filing first in the Tax Court and then in the county board of taxation. In holding that the Tax Court had jurisdiction over the matter and that the county board did not, the Supreme Court said, "we find that the Legislature intended to bind the taxpayer by his election and that the taxpayer may not maintain identical appeals in both forums." Id. at 18.

Chapter II was Shav Assocs. v. Middletown Tp., 11 N. J. Tax 569 (Tax 1991). In that case, the municipality filed a petition of appeal with the Monmouth County Board of Taxation on August 14, 1989, and the taxpayer filed a complaint by way of direct appeal with the Tax Court on the same day. The Conclusion in Shav Assocs. was that

the decision of the Supreme Court in Union City Associates requires a determination that filing in the Tax Court in compliance with N. J. S. A. 54:3-21 vests the Tax Court with the jurisdiction to decide the matter. If there is a timely and proper filing of a complaint in the Tax Court, the county board of taxation has no jurisdiction over the matter.

[Id. at 576.]

Now in Chapter III, Greate Bay contends that its prior filing of petitions of appeal with the Atlantic County Board of Taxation "extinguished" the jurisdiction of the Tax Court over the assessments for the lots for which petitions were already filed at the county board level, unless county board judgments are appealed. Greate Bay asserts that, in the absence of Tax Court jurisdiction, the four Tax Court complaints must ...


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