John Privitera and Jacob Lamme achieved a substantial appellate victory, establishing and protecting the legal right of religious and charitable organizations to obtain real property tax exemptions even if improvements on an organization’s real property are incomplete.
The Town of Jefferson, in the foothills of the Catskills, had sought to impose real property taxes upon Oorah, Inc., a religious charity that provides year-round activities and summer camp experiences to underprivileged children. The Town wrongfully challenged Oorah’s federal tax exemption; questioned Oorah’s religious and charitable purposes; and, illegally denied Oorah’s right to be exempt from real property taxes.
The Town’s effort to deny Oorah’s rights, based upon purported violations of local building and fire codes at incomplete recreational facilities for the children, failed. The appellate victory establishes that municipalities in New York may not deprive a charity of its right to tax exempt status based upon the building or fire codes.