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Township of Franklin v. Estate of Mindel

A-0505-01T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2002) (Unpublished)

TAXATION; FARMLAND ASSESSMENT—When a farmland assessment is based on two separate qualifying conditions, even if the tax records show only one, discontinuance of the known use will not end the special tax treatment.

A pair of tracts of land more than forty acres in size had been qualified for farmland assessment as both pasture and woodland under the Goodnoe/Gracy forest management plan. Then, when it appeared that the pasturing activities decreased or may have completed ceased, the municipality sought to impose roll-back taxes. Essentially, it argued that the property was subject to a change in use, justifying an assessment for roll-back taxes. The lower court, with the Appellate Division’s affirmance, held that it didn’t matter that the assessor had granted the original farmland assessments based solely on the pasturing and without considering the woodland application and wood lot management plan, because, even though the pasturing activities may have ended, the wood lot activity continued. “For farmland purposes wood not need be harvested or marked each year, so long as the property continues under the plan and is so certified by the forester as it was in this case.” Consequently, the property was used as a wood lot in any given year and since “the two contiguous lots were included in a single plan, it [made] no sense to exempt one part of the unit and hold that another part is subject to rollback taxes.”

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