Oorah loses tax case, must pay $246K
JEFFERSON The former Scotch Valley ski resort will remain taxable for the 2012-13 year under a court ruling that rejected a religious organization’s request for tax-exempt status.
The decision rendered March 4 by state Supreme Court Justice Eugene P. Devine will force New Jersey-based Oorah Inc. to pay roughly $246,000 in county, school and town taxes this year.
Oorah Inc. operates summer camps for Jewish children and religious retreats on properties it owns in Gilboa and Jefferson.
The organization was deemed tax-exempt with respect to about 117 acres in Gilboa last year, but a similar request for more than 400 acres in the town of Jefferson wound up in court.
Town officials denied Oorah’s request, contending the organization didn’t provide sufficient information to deem the former Scotch Valley ski center and Deer Run condominium complex tax exempt.
Devine’s ruling rejects Oorah’s contention the town’s decision was arbitrary and capricious and unsupported by evidence. But the reasons for the denial are technicalities, and Oorah spokesman Andrew Moesel said the group sees the decision as a victory.
“What’s interesting about this decision is that while the judge technically ruled against us, the decision was an emphatic win for our argument,” Moesel said.
Devine ruled Oorah’s certificate of incorporation and bylaws “overwhelmingly establish” that it was organized for religious, charitable and educational purposes.
One of three parcels that make up the Jefferson property is clearly used as a children’s summer camp and there’s no evidence Oorah realizes a profit from running the camps, Devine ruled.
But Oorah Resort LLC obtained a permit to operate a children’s camp — not Oorah Inc., the successor organization, so the camp has been operating without a permit in the name of the legal owner. Using a property “in contravention of local laws” can be a basis for denying tax exemption, Devine ruled.
In terms of the other two parcels, Oorah was too vague when it defined their uses, Devine ruled.
Jefferson Town Supervisor Daniel Singletary on Monday said he sees the decision as a win as well.
Moesel said Oorah is appealing the ruling and Singletary said he expects the organization will apply for tax-free status for the upcoming tax year.