Alton Bay Camp Meeting Ass'n v. Town of Alton, No. 5658

CourtSupreme Court of New Hampshire
Writing for the CourtLAMPRON
Citation109 N.H. 44,242 A.2d 80
Docket NumberNo. 5658
Decision Date29 May 1968

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242 A.2d 80
109 N.H. 44
No. 5658.
Supreme Court of New Hampshire.
Argued Oct. 3, 1967.
Decided May 29, 1968.

[109 N.H. 45]

Page 82

Nighswander, Lord & Martin and Conrad E. Snow, Laconia, for plaintiff.

Snierson, Chandler & Copithorne, Laconia (John P. Chandler, Laconia, orally), for defendant.

LAMPRON, Justice.

This is a petition for abatement of taxes for the year 1961 assessed by the town of Alton on certain properties owned by the plaintiff. The matter was heard originally by Sullivan, J. who died before rendering a decision. It was heard again by Griffith, J. who made findings of fact and transferred without ruling the issue whether all of plaintiff's property is exempt from taxation. Defendant's exceptions to certain of the Court's findings were neither briefed nor argued and are deemed waived. Bartis v. Bartis, 107 N.H. 34, 37, 216 A.2d 784.

The plaintiff Association was incorporated under Laws 1874, Ch. 73 for 'such religious, moral, charitable and benevolent purposes as said corporation may from time to time designate.' The Trial Court found that 'Alton Bay Camp Meeting Association has as its principal purpose the fostering of religious [109 N.H. 46] activities of the Advent Christian Church and * * * all uses of the property other than the primary religious use are subsidiary to that purpose * * * (T)he principal religious activity of the camp meeting ground is concentrated in some three weeks in August but * * * in addition * * * during the months of July and August * * * (plaintiff) conducts a day camp and also bible classes generally during the week, and Sunday meetings during both of these months.'

'The Association is not operated for profit, although income from one source

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may be used to help support another activity. In the final analysis, the Association depends upon contributions for its continuance in operation as a camp meeting.'

The parties have agreed that a tabernacle, chapel, religious bookstore and residence of the principal minister at camp meeting and the Barker Lot, so-called, which has been used exclusively for the Association's youth camp, were properly exempted from taxation by the Assessors of the town.

The items under dispute, assessed for $23,200., include 28 acres of land owned by the Association and occupied by 183 cottages and 19 boat houses owned by Association members and others, a dwelling, garages, office property, store building, a vacant bakery which has collapsed, a cafeteria and snack bar with rooms for personnel, and a rooming house.

The Trial Court found 'that cottages may not be transferred or sold without the approval of the Association as far as maintaining their lease is concerned and that in case of inheritance of a cottage * * * the same requirement is made. It does appear, however, that enforcement of these regulations is not always strict and that from time to time some persons occupy cottages for a substantial length of time who do not participate in the religious activities. The Court, however, finds that this does not mean that the Association acquiesces specifically in such breach of their requirements.

'The Court finds that the cottages and the rooms are generally occupied by members of the Advent Church, and their families, whose primary interest is the gathering with people of the same faith for the purposes of social and recreational activities and for the purposes of religious meetings.

'It would appear that insofar as there has been any change in the character of the operation of the camp from its earliest [109 N.H. 47] inception it would consist largely in the increase of the permanency of the buildings and the length of their occupation as far as the season is concerned and the increase in the type and quantity of physical activity by way of sports, boating and bathing.

'The Court finds that there is no evidence that the religious activity has been in any way downgraded in the years since the inception of the camp meeting * * * (or) any deterioration of religious faith.'

The Association's charter provided that its real and personal estate, limited to $10,000 but later increased to $100,000, 'shall be exempt from taxation' but provided that the 'legislature may alter, amend or repeal this act, or any of its provisions.' Laws 1874, 173:1, 3, 4; Laws 1919, 244:1. However the above exemption was repealed by Laws 1913, Ch. 115, the predecessor to RSA 72:23 (supp.) which now governs such exemptions. Hedding Camp Meeting Association v. Epping, 88 N.H. 321, 322, 189 A. 347; Trustees of Phillips Exeter Academy v. Exeter, 90 N.H. 472, 479, 27 A.2d 569; Appalachian Mountain Club v. Meredith, 103 N.H. 5, 11, 163 A.2d 808.

Prior to the enactment of the latter law in 1957, a 'Commission To Recommend Reorganization of the Tax Structure', created by Laws 1953, 360:5, 6, had reported to the Governor that the 'growing amount of institutional property exempted from taxation is not known so its effect upon the tax base cannot be appraised.' Tax Policies in New Hampshire (1954) p. 38. Laws 1955, Ch. 381, which stated in its preamble 'it appears that the total value of ordinarily taxable property now exempt from taxation by virtue of tax exemption laws is in excess of one hundred million dollars' created a joint committee of the House and Senate 'to study, investigate and examine into the matter of tax exempt property of every kind in the state, with particular reference to existing laws governing and granting such exemptions.'

In its report (Journal of the House, pp. 147, 148) this committee recommended the enactment of a bill making changes in the tax laws relating to institutional exemptions which was enacted as Laws 1957, Ch.

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202, part of which is now RSA 72:23 (supp.). In the debate preceding its passage, Senator Adams, who served on the joint study committee whose report resulted in H.B. 142 being drafted, stated that this bill 'if it does anything, it tightens the tax exemption law in the State of New [109 N.H. 48] Hampshire' Journal of the Senate (1957) pp. 761, 762. This court, in Appalachian Mountain Club v. Meredith, supra, 15, 163 A.2d 815, rejected a suggestion that this 1957 amendment to the exemption laws 'was intended to be little more than a reorganization of existing provisions and a codification of judicial decisions interpreting them' and stated that the amendment had 'no over-all purpose to widen the sweep of the exemption laws.' In that opinion this court held that RSA 72:23, subsec. V (supp.) imposed more rigid requirements for an exemption than those of the prior statute.

RSA 72:23, subsec. III (supp.), under which plaintiff must sustain the exemptions it claims as a religious organization provides that the following real estate and...

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25 cases
  • St. Paul's School v. City of Concord, 7562
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • March 31, 1977
    ...'a necessary appendage of any building serving the public.' Id. at 517, 238 A.2d at 732. In Alton Bay Camp Meeting Asso. v. Alton, 109 N.H. 44, 242 A.2d 80 (1968) we stated that the 'integrated activities of the association as a whole' must be donsidered to determine tax exemption, and that......
  • Marist Bros. of N.H. v. Town of Effingham, No. 2017-0187
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • September 14, 2018
    ...and are not necessary for MBNH to accomplish that purpose. The Town cites our decision in Alton Bay Camp Meeting Association v. Alton, 109 N.H. 44, 242 A.2d 80 (1968) (decided under prior law), in which we held that certain property owned by the plaintiff Association, but occupied by owners......
  • Appeal of City of Concord (n.H. Bd. of Tax And Land Appeals)., No. 2009–491.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • January 13, 2011
    ...for non-exempt purposes, “[a] division of value between the two uses should be made if such exist.” Alton Bay Camp Meeting Asso. v. Alton, 109 N.H. 44, 50, 242 A.2d 80 (1968). We need not determine whether, as HCA contends, the City failed to develop before the BTLA its argument based upon ......
  • In re God, No. 2011–368.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • May 22, 2012 We implicitly construed a prior version of the statute as urged by the City. In Alton Bay Camp Meeting Association v. Town of Alton, 109 N.H. 44, 242 A.2d 80 (1968), the version of RSA 72:23, III then in effect exempted from taxation “houses of public worship, parish houses, church pars......
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