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Green Acres Tax Exemption Protest Letter

August 24, 2005

The following letter was sent to the Green Acres Tax Exemption Coordinator, Bruce W. Bechtloff, who acknowledged receipt of the letter via a telephone call to me at 2:45 on August 24, 2005.

Additional information regarding this issue will be posted to a web page created specifically for information and discussion regarding tax exempt land in Downe Township.

Bernard Sayers
430 Sharp Lane, Box 299
Newport, NJ 08345  •  •  856-447-1199

Via Email and FAX

 August 24, 2005

Reference Number: 0604-05-3129

Mr. Bruce W. Bechtloff, NJ-DEP Coordinator
Green Acres Tax Exemption Program
P. O. Box 412
Trenton, NJ 08625-0412

Dear Mr. Bechtloff:

This letter is being sent to you after a telephone conversation we had on Thursday, August 18. 2005 during which I asked you to postpone the hearing for tax exemption on the above reference number. After consulting with your Deputy Attorney General you informed me during our conversation that “The hearing date can not be changed; it is what it is, what it is.” Ironically, your statement that the hearing date could not be changed came after you told me that you have often postponed hearings in previous years. I ask you again to postpone the hearing on the above referenced application.

I have the following objections to the granting of tax exempt status on the above referenced application number:

  1. The close--nearly incestuous--relationship between the State of New Jersey and the Natural Lands Trust, Inc. precludes any fair unbiased, assessment of facts and details in regard to the referenced application.
  2. In support of the above statement I point out that the NJDEP and the NLTI are Tenants in Common in the Deed made on June 8, 2005. The address for the State agency holding the subject hearing, your office, and the Grantee, the State of New Jersey are, in fact, the same.
  3. In addition, as a 5% owner as Tenant in Common the State of New Jersey clearly has a major issue of conflict.
  4. The severe conflict of interest exhibited by the above precludes any presumption of objectivity in regard to the subject application.
  5. The people of the State of New Jersey in general and the people of the Township of Downe are not in any way being fairly served by the NJEP if such an obvious conflict can be allowed to be called a ‘hearing’ on the said issues.
  6. As I indicated to you in our August 18th telephone conversation, the people of Downe Township are quite fed up with the continual carte blanche practice of allowing tax exemption on land within the township. Our township is a whopping 54 square miles in size but is populated by only 1600 people. A very large percentage or Downe residents-- a disproportionate number when compared with other areas of the state--are senior citizens on fixed income. 
  7. I also indicated to you that our residents are so dissatisfied with our current elected officials that we are voting this November for two new committee members. We have previously voted to increase the number of committee members from three to five. Current members are not addressing tax exemption adequately.
  8. Downe Township has the third highest percentage of tax exempt land in the entire State of New Jersey. According to data I personally received from the NJDEP as an Excel spreadsheet, Downe Township is 66.39% tax exempt, although our Tax Assessor indicated in her letter of objection to you that the number is closer to 70%. The continued practice of exempting land by your agency is clearly not in the best interests of our residents.
  9. A major discrepancy exists between the amount of land listed under ‘Property’ in the deed of June 8th and the actual land total for the parcels indicated in the legal notice and as provided in the application.
  10. The Deed mentions 1,551.206 acres, more or less, whereas the total of the parcels in question total 1113.2 acres. A discrepancy of  428 acres is nearly 25% of the amount listed in the deed. 25% is hardly ‘more or less’ by definition.
  11. The huge discrepancy between the parcel list as provided in the legal notice and Deed as provided in the application is sufficient reason to postpone the acceptance of this application until the correct numbers are provided by the applicants.
  12. Information provided to me by the Downe Township Tax Assessor indicates that various lots are combined into one lot. State of New Jersey municipal land use law clearly indicates the requirement for such transaction to come before the local planning board for sub-division approval. The applicant for the subject exemption has NEVER appeared before the Downe P & Z board for the land in question.
  13. If, as I expect your office to claim, the DEP position is that because the State of New Jersey is a Grantee and Tenant in Common no such application is required I suggest that you reconsider my objections above in regard to a conflict of interest.
  14. Because of the above, and particularly because of your unwillingness to postpone the hearing, the residents of the State of New Jersey and the residents of Downe Township are being denied their right of due process.

 For your information, I am sending copies of this letter to all local newspapers and all elected officials from local to Assemblymen. I am also adding this letter to my website and weblogs related to Downe Township.

Have some compassion; reject this application for tax exemption status.


Bernard Sayers


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