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Mohonk Trust v. Board of Assessors

Citation: 9 ELR 20551
No. No. 274, 392 N.E.2d 876/47 N.Y.2d 476, (N.Y., 07/03/1979)

The New York Court of Appeals, reversing the decision of the appellate court below, rules that wilderness property owned by the appellant trust is exempt under state law from municipal property taxes. The trust lands consist of 5,000 acres of undeveloped land in the upper Shawangunk Mountains. Access is provided to the public at a nominal charge and to guests at an adjacent resort pursuant to an arrangement with the resort. In 1974, the Town of Gardiner sought for the first time to levy property taxes against the land, and this litigation ensued.

To qualify for a property tax exemption under § 421 (subd. 1, P a) of the Real Property Tax Law, the property must be owned by a "corporation or association" "organized or conducted exclusively" for listed exempt purposes, and it must be used "exclusively" for such purposes. The court rules that for purposes of tax exemption statutes, the term "organization or association" is to be read broadly. Petitioner trust is thus an association within the statutory meaning. A broad construction is similarly to be applied to the term "exclusively" as used in the requirements that the association be organized or conducted, and that the land in question be used, exclusively for exempt purposes. The court finds that while some of the trust's stated purposes may not fall within the statutory exemptions, it was organized, and the lands are used primarily for, the preservation of wilderness, which constitutes an exempt purpose. In this context, that is all that is required to bring the property within the protection of the tax exemption statute.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (9 pp. $1.25, ELR Order No. C-1179).

Counsel for Petitioner
David Sive, William R. Ginsburg, Laurence B. Jones
Winer, Neuburger & Sive
425 Park Ave., New York NY 10022
(202) 421-2150

Counsel for Respondent
Alfred Hafke
28 Main St., P.O. Box 444, New Paltz NY 12561
(914) 255-1850

Gabrielli, J.