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New England Forestry Foundation, Inc. v. Board of Assessors of Hawley (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-083-14)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA 02108-1750;  (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us     SJC‑11432     NEW ENGLAND FORESTRY FOUNDATION, INC.  vs.  BOARD OF ASSESSORS OF HAWLEY. Suffolk.     January 6, 2014.  ‑  May 15, 2014. Present:  Ireland, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Gants, Duffly, & Lenk, JJ.     Administrative Law, Agency’s interpretation of statute, Findings, Judicial review, Appellate Tax Board:  final decision.  Taxation, Real estate tax:  charity, Real estate tax: exemption, Appellate Tax Board:  appeal to Supreme Judicial Court, Appellate Tax Board:  findings, Judicial review.  Charity.  Corporation, Non‑profit corporation.  Statute, Construction.     Appeal from a decision of the Appellate Tax Board.   The Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate review.     Douglas Hallward‑Driemeier (Jesse Mohan Boodoo & Jacob Scott with him) for the plaintiff. Rosemary Crowley (David J. Martel with her) for the defendant. The following submitted briefs for amici curiae: Robert H. Levin, of Maine, for Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, Inc., & another. Gregor I. McGregor & Luke H. Legere for Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, Inc., & another. James F. Sullivan for Massachusetts Association of Assessing Officers. Robert E. McDonnell & Patrick Strawbridge for The Nature Conservancy, & another. Lisa C. Goodheart, Susan A. Hartnett, Phelps T. Turner, & Joshua D. Nadreau for The Trustees of Reservations.       SPINA, J.  This case comes to us on direct appellate review from a decision of the Appellate Tax Board (board).  The taxpayer, New England Forestry Foundation, Inc. (NEFF), is a nonprofit corporation organized under G. L. c. 180.  NEFF is the record owner of a 120-acre parcel of forest land in the town of Hawley.  In 2009, NEFF applied to the board of assessors of Hawley (assessors) for a charitable tax exemption on the parcel under G. L. c. 59, § 5, Third (Clause Third).  The assessors denied NEFF’s application, and NEFF appealed to the board.  The board likewise denied the application on the basis that NEFF had failed to carry its burden to show that it occupied the land in Hawley for a charitable purpose within the meaning of Clause Third.  NEFF again appealed, and both NEFF and the assessors filed applications for direct appellate review.  We granted the parties’ applications, and we reverse the board’s decision. 1.  Background.  The taxpayer, NEFF, is a Massachusetts nonprofit corporation organized under G. L. c. 180, and it has received tax-exempt status from the Federal government under 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3) (2006).  NEFF was incorporated in […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - May 15, 2014 at 5:39 pm

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