Tax Court Affirms Standing To File An Appeal Under Long Term Tax Exemption Law (“LTTEL”)

by: Allan Zhang
3 Aug 2021

A recent Tax Court opinion by the Honorable Joshua D. Novin examined whether a property owner possessed standing to bring a tax appeal when the property was part of a redevelopment project subject to a financial agreement under the Long Term Tax Exemption Law (“LTTEL”) and whether the Court possessed jurisdiction to adjudicate same.

Here, Plaintiff, I-78 Logistics Park Lopatcong Urban Renewal, LLC (“I-78”), is the current owner of property located at 2900/1098 US Highway Route 22 in Lopatcong Twp. The Twp. previously designated the subject property as “blighted” and “in need of redevelopment” under the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law and in 2015 entered into a redevelopment agreement with Opus Investments, Inc. who subsequently sold the property to I-78 subject to the redevelopment agreement. In August 2018, Lopatcong Twp. approved I-78’s application for a long-term tax exemption and entry into a financial agreement under the LTTEL (N.J.S.A. 40A:20-1 to 22). In September 2019, I-78 and Lopatcong Twp. executed a First Amended Financial Agreement, memorializing the long-term tax exemption afforded I-78. In April 2020, I-78 filed an appeal challenging the subject property’s land assessment. Thereafter, a stipulation of settlement was filed by both parties requesting a reduction of the land assessment. However, the Court could not process the stipulation as the municipal assessor had not concurred with the settlement. The assessor’s position was that I-78 had no basis to appeal the assessment as it was bound by the First Amended Financial Agreement under the LTTEL and subject to N.J.S.A. 54:3-21(b) (No taxpayer or taxing district shall be entitled to appeal either an assessment or an exemption or both that is based on a financial agreement subject to the provision of the “Long Term Tax Exemption Law”…).

The Court, upon reviewing the First Amended Financial Agreement and relevant legislative history and case law, concluded I-78 was an “aggrieved taxpayer” that timely filed an appeal and therefore possessed standing to bring its appeal and the Tax Court was vested with jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter. The Court rejected the assessor’s argument that the N.J.S.A. 54:3-21(b) should be read to prohibit all challenges before the Tax Court involving property part of a redevelopment project subject to a financial agreement under the LTTEL. Instead, the Court found the statute prohibits challenges before the Tax Court involving terms of a financial agreement or an exemption granted under the LTTEL. The Court made no finding regarding the proposed settlement and Stipulation of Settlement filed. Further proceedings were to be scheduled. Stay tuned…

To view the full I-78 Logistics Park Loptacong Urban Renewal, LLC v. Lopatcong Twp. decision click here.