9 October, 2008

Ocean NJ: Lien put on synagogue to collect back taxes

Posted by VNNB in Announce, VNNB at 10:28 am | Permanent Link

OCEAN TOWNSHIP — Next week, on Wednesday morning, the Orthodox Jewish members of Synagogue of Oakhurst Community Center will don their holiday clothing and gather in their building to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot.

A mile-and-a-half away, in the town hall, a different crowd will gather at the same time to bid on liens being sold in a tax sale — including a lien on the Synagogue of Oakhurst for almost $27,000.

The synagogue, which has been issued at least 13 complaints in recent years for operating in a residential area without proper approval, currently is fighting in state Tax Court to receive tax-exempt status. Meanwhile, it owes the township $36,316.62 in property taxes, of which $26,531.74 represents the balance due through last year and the amount of the lien the township plans to sell next week.

“This is not the way you treat a house of worship,” said Charles Massry, 59, a member of the synagogue who questioned the township’s timing of the tax sale. “We’re supposed to be focusing on the high holidays, not worrying about tax liens.”

Mayor William F. Larkin countered that tax sales always are held this time of year. Members of the Synagogue of Oakhurst can walk into Town Hall any day between now and Oct. 15, pay the taxes owed and avoid the tax lien sale, he said.

The synagogue operated illegally for decades while its rabbi insisted that the building at the corner of South Lincoln and Bauer avenues was a child care center, Larkin added. Then its members declared the building actually has served as a synagogue for the last 30 years and does not need to pay taxes, he said.

“For years they went on with the charade that they were not a house of worship,” Larkin said. Now “this tax lien is due to the fact they felt they didn’t have to pay taxes because they feel they should be tax exempt.”

Elliot Mavorah, the president of Synagogue of Oakhurst, could not be reached for comment.

Seeking tax exemption

The Synagogue of Oakhurst applied in 2004 for an exemption from property taxes, even though by then it had been issued numerous complaints for operating in a residential area where synagogues are not a permitted use. The town granted the tax-exempt status as of 2006 but later appealed its own decision to the Monmouth County Board of Taxation, which returned the synagogue to the township’s tax rolls.

Now the synagogue is asking the state Tax Court to overturn the county board’s decision. After several adjournments at the synagogue’s request, the case currently is scheduled to be heard in Tax Court on Jan. 28.

Synagogue members expect the appeal to succeed, which is why they have not been paying their property taxes, said Ronald S. Gasiorowski, attorney for the synagogue.

Michael DuPont, the attorney who is representing Ocean Township in this matter at a rate of $125 per hour, declined to comment.

Zoning complaints

Ocean Township’s zoning office has issued numerous zoning complaints against the Synagogue of Oakhurst since 2003, when a renovation at the building brought its illegal use to the attention of the municipality, according to Zoning Board of Adjustment records.

The synagogue pleaded guilty in Municipal Court Aug. 20, 2007, to five complaints dating back to 2005 for which it was assessed fines and court costs of $6,165. Another 13 complaints dating from 2003 to 2005 were dismissed at the time.

Municipal Court officials could not immediately say whether the synagogue paid the $6,165.

Three times since the township began hitting the synagogue with complaints, the Synagogue of Oakhurst applied to the township zoning board for a use variance that would allow it to operate a synagogue in its building.

The first two times, the synagogue withdrew its application. Last year, on the third attempt, the board granted the use variance on the condition that the synagogue submit an application for site plan approval within 90 days.

The synagogue never submitted that document, and the township revoked the use variance.

“Doesn’t bother anybody”

Despite its problems with town hall, the Synagogue of Oakhurst boasts a quiet congregation that does not disrupt the quiet neighborhood, said Kim Cohen of Larchwood Avenue, a synagogue member.

“It doesn’t bother anybody,” Cohen said. “They (township officials) should just leave (the synagogue) alone.”

And if the township must put it up for a tax lien sale, she added, “why do it on the holiday?”

Gasiorowski, the synagogue’s attorney, said he was not upset at the township’s timing.

“It just happens also to be a Jewish holiday,” the lawyer said. “I don’t think it’s purposeful.”


  • 4 Responses to “Ocean NJ: Lien put on synagogue to collect back taxes”

    1. shabbos s. shabazz Says:

      “A levy is a legal seizure of your property to satisfy a tax debt”

      “Mr. Levy” is about to experience a levy, or a seizure. . .

    2. Howdy Doody Says:


    3. Todd Says:

      Someone should try and buy the property at the tax value then they can throw a WN party and bulldoze the pile of crap! After that build a building shaped like a swastika ;-)

    4. 2050 Says:

      hey, wait a minute, don’t you know that taxes are to take stuff away from the goyim. What’s the deal? This law/tax/rule shouldn’t apply to the self chosen.