DANIEL D. FISHER, SR., Plaintiff-Appellant,
TOWNSHIP OF SOUTHAMPTON, Defendant-Respondent.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued March 20, 2013.
On appeal from the Tax Court of New Jersey, Docket No. 14535-2011.
Michael J. Ward, IV, argued the cause for appellant.
Stacy L. Moore, Jr., argued the cause for respondent (Parker McCay, P.A., attorneys;
George M. Morris, of counsel; Mr. Moore, on the brief).
Before Judges Grall and Simonelli.
Plaintiff Daniel D. Fisher, Sr. appeals from the February 17, 2012 Tax Court judgment, which dismissed his complaint seeking a farmland assessment pursuant to the Farmland Assessment Act of 1964, N.J.S.A. 54:4-23.1 to -23.24. Plaintiff also appeals from the April 2, 2012 order, which denied his motion for a new trial. We affirm.
Plaintiff owns property located in the Pinelands, and known as Lots 9 and 14, Block 3201 on the tax map of the Township of Southampton (Township). Lot 14, which is the subject of this appeal, is a forty-four acre wooded lot consisting mostly of wetland. Prior to 2010, Lot 14 qualified for a farmland assessment.
Plaintiff also owns property known as Lots 6 and 6Q, Block 1204, a ninety-three acre lot used as a grain and hay farm that qualifies for a farmland assessment (Lot 6). Lot 6 is located approximately six miles from Lot 14, and there are several residential communities separating the lots.
In 2010, the Township's tax assessor reviewed all farmland-assessed properties to determine whether they qualified for a farmland assessment. He inspected Lot 14 and found it was a wooded parcel with no Management Plan and where no routine agricultural or horticultural activities took place. Accordingly, the tax assessor determined that Lot 14 did not qualify for a farmland assessment pursuant to N.J.A.C. 18:15-1.1.
Plaintiff applied for a farmland assessment for Lot 14. The tax assessor denied the application, and the Burlington County Board of Taxation (Board) affirmed. Plaintiff then filed a pro se complaint in the Tax Court, alleging that Lot 14 was supportive of and beneficial to Lot 6 because wood from Lot 14 was used as firewood to heat the farmhouse on Lot 14, thus saving thousands of dollars for heating oil, and the wood was also used to construct and repair farm buildings, sheds and fences on Lot 6.
At trial, plaintiff admitted that Lot 14 did not qualify for a farmland assessment on its own, the lot did not provide a windbreak, watershed enrichment, buffers, or soil erosion control for Lot 6, and he had not applied for a Woodland Management Plan for Lot 14. He testified that in 2010, he cut three or four cords of wood on Lot 14, which he used as firewood to heat the farmhouse on Lot 6, and ten ...