Drye & Warren LLP, New York, NY (Robert E. Crotty and
Genna S. Steinberg of counsel), for appellant.
Corbally, Gartland and Rappleyea, LLP, Poughkeepsie, NY
(Karen E. Hagstrom of counsel), for respondent.
E. CHAMBERS, J.P., LEONARD B. AUSTIN, SYLVIA O. HINDS-RADIX,
BETSY BARROS, JJ.
DECISION & ORDER
proceeding pursuant to Real Property Tax Law article 7 to
review a determination of Stephan Gotovich as the Assessor of
the Town of Stanford dated May 1, 2013, which denied the
petitioner's application for property tax exemptions
under RPTL 420-a for the tax year 2013, the petitioner
appeals from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Dutchess County
(Brands, J.), dated December 3, 2014, which denied the second
amended petition and dismissed the proceeding.
that the judgment is affirmed, with costs.
420-a provides, in pertinent part:
(a) Real property owned by a corporation or association
organized or conducted exclusively for religious, charitable,
hospital, educational, or moral or mental improvement of men,
women or children purposes, or for two or more such purposes,
and used exclusively for carrying out thereupon one or more
of such purposes either by the owning corporation or
association or by another such corporation or association as
hereinafter provided shall be exempt from taxation as
provided in this section.
Real property such as specified in paragraph (a) of this
subdivision shall not be exempt if any officer, member or
employee of the owning corporation or association shall
receive or may be lawfully entitled to receive any pecuniary
profit from the operations thereof, except reasonable
compensation for services in effecting one or more of such
term "used exclusively" means
"principally" or "primarily" (Matter
of Vassar Bros. Hosp. v City of Poughkeepsie, 97 A.D.3d
756, 758 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Matter
of Yesivath Shearish Hapletah v Assessor of Town of
Fallsburg, 79 N.Y.2d 244, 249). "Generally, [t]he
burden of establishing that the property is entitled to a tax
exemption rests with the taxpayer'" (Matter of
Greentree Found. v Assessor & Bd. of Assessors of County
of Nassau, 142 A.D.3d 665, 666, quoting Matter of
Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, Inc. v Assessor of City of
Auburn, 24 N.Y.3d 362, 367).
petitioner, Homeland Foundation, Incorporated, a
not-for-profit corporation under section 501 of the Internal
Revenue Code (see 26 USC § 501[c]), was
established in 1938 by Chauncey Devereux Stillman. In 1989,
Stillman died and left to the petitioner his country estate,
which consisted of eight separate, contiguous parcels of land
totaling approximately 1, 200 acres. During three half-days
per week during the summer months, the petitioner opens to
the public two buildings and its gardens for formal and
informal tours, and it provides public access to its trails
on a seasonal basis seven months a year. The petitioner also
leases farmland within the parcels to a commercial farmer.
The petitioner did not submit any evidence delineating the
uses of each parcel.
petitioner applied for real property tax exemptions pursuant
to RPTL 420-a for all eight parcels for the 2013 tax year,
claiming it used the parcels entirely for religious,
charitable, educational, and moral or mental improvement
purposes. The application was denied for all eight parcels on
the ground that the petitioner failed to satisfy the use
requirement of the statute.
petitioner commenced this proceeding pursuant to RPTL article
7 to review that determination. The Supreme Court denied the
second amended petition and dismissed the proceeding on the
grounds that the petitioner failed to satisfy the statutory
tax-exempt use requirements, and failed to show that its
president received no more than reasonable compensation for
work in furtherance of a tax-exempt purpose. The petitioner
petitioner failed to meet its burden of establishing that it
is entitled to tax-exempt status. While it is uncontested
that the parcels were open to the public on a limited basis,
the petitioner failed to explain how the parcels were used
when they were not open to the public, and whether those uses
were tax exempt. Accordingly, the petitioner did not
demonstrate that the property was used principally or
primarily for tax-exempt purposes (see Matter of
Yeshivath Shearith Hapletah v Assessor of Town of
Fallsburg, 79 N.Y.2d at 249).
petitioner also failed to establish that the annual salary of
$330, 000 plus benefits that it paid to Elizabeth Wyckoff,
its president, was no more than reasonable compensation for
her services in effecting one or more tax-exempt purposes
(see RPTL 420-a[b]). The petitioner submitted no
other proof, such as comparable salaries of officers at
similar not-for-profit organizations ...