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Millburn Synagogue Retains Property Tax Exemption

by: Anthony F. Della Pelle
8 Nov 2013

This week a New Jersey appeals court affirmed a property tax exemption which had been granted by the Tax Court concerning a three-story house in Millburn Township that had been used as a synagogue.   The dispute focused on the use of the property by Chai Center’s rabbi as his principal residence, although religious services were also held on the property.  There had been a prior zoning dispute between the center and the Township because houses of worship were only conditionally permitted uses in the zone in question.

Photo courtesy of NJ Jewish News

Photo courtesy of NJ Jewish News

The evidence before the Tax Court established that the rabbi did reside at the property, and that the property was also used as a house of worship.  The Township had denied the Center’s original request for a parsonage exemption on the property, and the Center subsequently applied for exemption based upon both uses – a parsonage and for prayer services.  The Tax Court concluded that the religious purpose exemption pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.6, rather than a parsonage exemption, was appropriate based upon undisputed facts.

On appeal by the Township, the Appellate Division affirmed the Tax Court’s judgment and reasoning, and noted that a religious organization’s entitlement to a property tax exemption for its house of worship depends upon its qualification under the criteria of N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.6, not whether the property’s use complies with local zoning ordinances.

A copy of the appellate court’s opinion is available here.