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Cascade Corp. v. Township of Middle

July 22, 1999

CASCADE CORPORATION D/B/A THE LENNOX CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF MIDDLE, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



Judges Long, Kestin and Wefing.

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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

On appeal from the Tax Court of New Jersey.

Cascade Corporation (Cascade) filed two real property tax appeals, claiming tax-exempt status with respect to two properties in the Township of Middle (Township). The complaints sought judgment:

1. Declaring that the property is entitled to an exemption from real estate taxation under New Jersey law; and

2. Setting the assessment on the property at zero for the 1997 tax year; and

3. Ordering the assessor of the Township of Middle to remove the property from the tax rolls and maintain the exemption on the property[.]

The Township moved to dismiss each of the complaints. N.J.S.A. 54:4-34 (Chapter 91) *fn1 was cited as the basis for the motions. The Township contended that because Cascade had not provided income and expense information requested by the tax assessor in connection with valuation of the properties, as required by Chapter 91, it had waived its right to challenge the assessor's ruling with regard to its tax exempt status, and could not appeal from the valuation and assessment of the properties.

Judge Rimm agreed with the Township's contention, expressing his reasons in an oral opinion rendered on October 31, 1997. He then offered Cascade the opportunity for a reasonableness hearing as to the 1997 assessment of the properties involved. See Ocean Pines, Ltd. v. Borough of Point Pleasant, 112 N.J. 1, 10-12 (1988). Thereafter, Cascade advised the Tax Court that it had elected not to proceed with a reasonableness hearing. Accordingly, the Tax Court entered judgments dismissing both tax appeal complaints. We consolidated Cascade's appeals from those judgments, and now affirm.

Cascade alleges that it is organized as a nonprofit corporation for "hospital purposes," an ownership form and use which is exempted from real property taxation by N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.6; and that the properties involved here are each used for an exempt "nursing home facility that provides long-term health and nursing care[.]" Cascade avers, further, that it purchased the properties from a for-profit entity in June 1996.

The statute defines "hospital purposes" as including health care facilities for the elderly, such as nursing homes; residential health care facilities; assisted living residences; facilities with a Class C license pursuant to P.L.1979, c. 496 (C. 55:13B-1 et al.), the "Rooming and Boarding House Act of 1979"; similar facilities that provide medical, nursing or personal care services to their residents; and that portion of the central administrative or service facility of a continuing care retirement community that is reasonably allocable as a health care facility for the elderly. [N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.6.]

The exemption is, however, not unlimited:

"[I]f any portion of a building used for hospital purposes is leased to profit-making organizations or otherwise used for purposes which are not themselves exempt from taxation, that portion shall be subject to taxation and the remaining portion only shall be exempt[.]" [Ibid.]

On September 12, 1996, the Township's tax assessor, acting pursuant to Chapter 91, requested that Cascade provide income and expense information concerning the properties on an "Annual Statement of Income & Expenses that is sent to all owners or managers of income producing properties[.]" Cascade, believing the properties were exempt, did not respond to the request for information; but, instead, on September 17, 1996, filed an application with the assessor for exemption. On February 14, 1997, the tax ...


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