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Menno Haven files suit over tax status

October 29, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Two days after its nursing homes had their tax-exempt status repealed by the Franklin County Board of Assessment and Revision of Taxes, Menno Haven Inc. Thursday filed suit against the board, claiming it had violated the law by not notifying the corporation of a hearing.

The suit filed in the Prothonotary's Office alleges the board failed to notify Menno Haven 20 days prior to the Oct. 18 hearing during which the board heard an appeal by the Chambersburg Area School District to end the tax exemptions for the Penn Hall and Menno Village nursing homes.

The hearing was on the same day the board heard Menno Haven's appeal to have its assisted living cottages at Penn Hall and Menno Village made tax-exempt, an appeal it has made to the board annually since 2001. The board also heard Menno Haven's appeal to have the assessed value of Penn Hall reduced.

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"Notice of the appeal was not mailed to or received by Menno Haven at any time prior to the Oct. 18, 2004, hearing," according to the lawsuit. "The Assessment Law mandates that written notice of any hearing be provided ... at least 20 days in advance of any hearing," the court papers stated.

On Tuesday, Oct. 26, the board denied Menno Haven's two appeals and approved the one by the school district to tax the nursing homes. The suit states the board of assessment "met to take official action on the improperly noticed hearing."

Menno Haven was "denied a meaningful opportunity to participate in the hearing before the board due to a lack of official notice," according to the suit.

"They got the paperwork. It was mailed 20 days ahead of time," Gary Martin, the county's chief appraiser, said Thursday.

Donald R. Reavey, the attorney for Menno Haven, raised the objection about proper notification at the Oct. 18 hearing, but testimony was taken from both sides that day.

The suit stated the board's action would result in Menno Haven having to pay $170,000 in property taxes next year. Menno Haven is asking the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to rule that it is not be responsible for property taxes on the nursing home in 2005.

It also asked the court to nullify an Aug. 18 decision by the Chambersburg School Board that was the basis for the district's appeal of the tax-exempt status of the nursing homes. The corporation also wants the court to set a hearing on its petition for an injunction to prevent the taxation of the homes and two other parcels.

In September, Menno Haven filed a suit against the school district alleging it had violated the Sunshine Act by not properly advertising the Aug. 18 meeting at which it authorized its business manager to file the appeal.

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