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Independent Order of Odd Fellows v. Nordstrom

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

January 13, 1954

In the Matter of MT. TABOR LODGE NO. 780, INDEPENDENT ORDER OF ODD FELLOWS, Respondent,
v.
OSCAR W. NORDSTROM, as Director of Assessments of the City of Jamestown, Appellant.

APPEAL from an order of the Supreme Court at Special Term (OTTAWAY, J.), entered November 29, 1952, in Chautauqua County, which granted a motion by petitioner for an order (1) declaring invalid the 1952 assessment of petitioner's property in the city of Jamestown, (2) exempting the property from

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taxation, and (3) canceling all taxes assessed against the property subsequent to January 1, 1952, and enjoining the appellant from enforcing the collection of taxes on the assessment.

COUNSEL

George W. Jude for respondent.

McKinley L. Phillips for appellant.

KIMBALL, J.

The order appealed from adjudged that the real property of Mt. Tabor Lodge No. 780, Independent Order of Odd Fellows is exempt from taxation under subdivision 6 of section 4 of the Tax Law which reads in part as follows: 'The real property of a corporation or association organized exclusively for the moral or mental improvement of men and women, or for religious, bible, tract, charitable, benevolent, missionary, hospital, infirmary, educational, public playground, scientific, literary, bar association, library, patriotic, historical or cemetery purposes, for the enforcement of laws relating to children or animals, or for two or more such purposes, and used exclusively for carrying out therefrom one or more of such purposes'.

Under this statute the petitioner claimed exemption on the ground that it was organized exclusively for charitable or benevolent purposes or both and that its property was used exclusively for such purposes. We think the petitioner has failed to show such exemption. The report of the Referee, without citation of authorities, states 'that petitioner comes under Section 4, Subdivision 6 of the Tax Law in that it is a corporation or association organized exclusively for the moral and mental improvement of men and women and for charitable, benevolent and educational purposes and the property in question is used exclusively for carrying out one or more of such purposes.' There is no proof that petitioner was organized for the moral and mental improvement of men and women. In fact only men may become members of the lodge. Likewise, no educational purpose was shown. If there is exemption, it must be by reason of charitable or benevolent purposes. The principal concern before the Referee was the use of the building. It appeared that other fraternal organizations rented the building at times and paid the petitioner for such use. The Referee held that the case of People ex rel. Mizpah Lodge v. Burke (228 N.Y. 245) was inapplicable, in view of the amendment to subdivision 6 of section 4 of the Tax Law in 1948. (L. 1948, ch. 622.) This amendment protects otherwise exempt property where it is used by another exempt corporation and where the rentals paid to the owning corporation do not exceed

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carrying, maintenance and depreciation charges. We do not pass upon that question or the question of whether such other organizations were exempt under the statute for the reason that it is our opinion the petitioner itself is not an exempt corporation.

The facts are not in dispute. The petitioner is a subordinate lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows of the State of New York and chartered by the Grand Lodge of the State. It is not a corporation as such but pursuant to section 2 of the Benevolent Orders Law it filed a certificate of election of trustees and has the status and powers provided in such case by the Benevolent Orders Law. This certificate, of course, sets forth no purposes of organization except to state that the lodge is duly chartered and installed by the grand lodge. There is no certificate of incorporation to shed light upon its purposes nor any act of the Legislature. We must therefore rely upon the constitution and by-laws of the petitioner to determine whether it is an exempt charitable or benevolent association. ( People ex rel. Untermyer v. McGregor, 295 N.Y. 237, 244.) The Referee relied upon People ex rel. Buffalo Turn Verein v. Assessors of City of Buffalo (257 A.D. 902). The memorandum of this court in that case pointed out that the relator was organized for educational purposes. We said: 'The legislative enactment [Laws of 1869, chap. 658, as amd. by Laws of 1894, chap. 12] incorporating relator states that one of its objects is the education of its members and others.' In the instant case, there is no legislative enactment nor any declared educational purpose.

The building on this property has social and service rooms on the first floor, a meeting hall on the second floor and on the third floor are storage space and a pool table. The members have access to these rooms except when they are rented to other organizations. Except for these rentals, the building is not used for any commercial purposes. At times, the lodge holds dinners. It is plain that the use and purposes of the building are for holding lodge meetings with attendant rituals of the order and for the social intercourse and relaxation of the members. There is no proof that any charitable or benevolent work is carried on in the building unless it be held that the proceedings at its meetings in accordance with the constitution and by-laws may be considered such. With this background and passing the question of exclusive use for charitable and benevolent purposes, we then look to the constitution and by-laws to ascertain whether this is an exempt organization. The Referee's findings do not support his conclusion. The report reads: 'The lodge is

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commonly known as a fraternal organization, conferring degrees, using rituals and secret pass-words. The building is used exclusively by petitioner for fraternal purposes.' With these findings we agree and perhaps without more, that would be sufficient to reverse the order. The property of a fraternal corporation or association is not exempted by the provisions of subdivision 6 of section 4 of the Tax Law. Had it been the intention of the Legislature to grant exemption to the numerous organizations mentioned in section 2 of the Benevolent Orders Law which partake of the nature of fraternal associations, it would have included them in subdivision 6 of section 4 of the Tax Law. That such was not the intention is shown by the fact that although associations or posts of war veterans such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the like are listed in the same category as subordinate lodges of Odd Fellows in section 2 of the ...


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