Updated 1:48 p.m.
The former Marylawn of the Oranges site on Scotland Road in South Orange will be returned to the tax rolls in South Orange, NJ as of January 1, 2015.
Village Administrator Barry Lewis reports that the South Orange tax “assessor has determined that the property (actually three parcels) should no longer be exempt as there is and has been no actual exempt use of the property for well in excess of a full year.”
The assessed value has been determined by the assessor to be $4,661,900. Lewis said that based on the 2014 tax rate, the total 2015 taxes (for the village, school district and county) will likely be between $150,000 and $200,000.
Marylawn, formerly a school for girls owned and operated by the Sisters of Charity, was previously tax exempt. In October, Seton Hall University withdrew a pending use variance application seeking approval to convert the site to a graduate medical program campus. Sale of the property was contingent upon obtaining the variance. Seton Hall has since indicated that is does not have an interest in purchasing the site.
Village Counsel Steve Rother told the South Orange Board of Trustees on Monday night that, pending approval by the assessor, the first bill would be issued in the second half of 2015, reflected back to the beginning of the year.
Rother said that while the property owner has the ability to challenge the assessment and the amount of the assessment, “we have looked at the risk and we don’t think that there is much of a risk in this particular circumstance and we are going to be giving you and the assessor a formal opinion on that topic.”
Village Administrator Barry Lewis said Monday, “For a time we thought it would be transferred to another exempt entity in a relatively short time period. Clearly, if it’s not eligible for the exemption it should be contributing taxes like any other property.”
Trustee Mark Rosner who is chairing a subcommittee considering future desired development options for Marylawn introduced the topic to the Board on Monday night. In looking at potential future uses for the property, Rosner said the subcommittee recognized that the property has not been operating as a school and is “sort of abandoned. One of the things suggested was to consider putting back on the tax roll.” The subcommittee asked Lewis to look into the possibility.
Trustee Sheena Collum, who is also on the Marylawn subcommittee, said that she had learned “that it’s not the entity that owns it being non-profit [that denotes tax exemption]; it’s the actual use of the property.” Collum noted that the Sisters of Charity, who own the property, “are aggressively going for a non-tax-exempt use of the property” in their marketing of the property for sale.
Rosner agreed, adding that the Sisters of Charity, are in fact marketing the property for a nonconforming use. “It’s zoned for single family, but they are marketing it for multi-family homes. It’s clear they want to maximize their profit on the property.”
Trustee Steve Schnall noted that imposing the assessment would not be for “punitive reasons, but one of the things that we want to avoid is a situation were the property lies fallow as we go through multiple iterations of potential developers going in and then it not being approved.” Schnall felt that adding the property back to the tax rolls would serve as a “very strong incentive to make sure a deal is done that is collaborative that works for the village as well as the Sisters and the neighborhood. … Nobody wants to have a piece of property that continues to deteriorate in front of our eyes.”