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Volume 10 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 106

Opinions of Counsel index

Temporary greenhouses exemption (scope) (agricultural nexus) - Real Property Tax Law, § 483-c:

To qualify for exemption, a temporary greenhouse must be constructed as specified in the statute (e.g., it must have a polyethylene or polypropylene cover) and be part of a viable agricultural or horticultural operation.

We have received an inquiry concerning the temporary greenhouses exemption (Real Property Tax Law, §483-c). The assessor states that an applicant for the exemption has built a roadside stand and several greenhouses on his property where he sells plants and flowers, but he does not farm the land or raise animals thereon.

As added by chapter 535 of the Laws of 1998, section 483-c exempts temporary greenhouses from taxes, special ad valorem levies and special assessments. A “temporary greenhouse” is statutorily defined as “specialized agricultural equipment having a framework covered with demountable polyethylene or polypropylene materials or materials of a polyethylene or polypropylene nature which is specifically designed, constructed and used for agricultural production” (RPTL, §483-c(1), emphasis added). Moreover, the sponsor’s memorandum for the bill (A.7923) which enacted section 483-c states, in part, “The greenhouse industry is the fastest growing sector of New York State’s agricultural industry. *** Temporary greenhouses are not permanent structures and are considered to be specialized farm equipment by greenhouse operators...” (emphasis added). Based on the plain statutory language and the sponsor’s memorandum, in our opinion, to receive the exemption, it is not enough that a greenhouse be constructed of the specified materials and in the specified manner; it must also be part of a viable agricultural operation.

We do note that, unlike section 483 (i.e., the farm structures and buildings exemption) which refers to agriculture and horticulture, section 483-c refers only to agriculture. Nevertheless, the sponsors of the bill enacted as section 483-c were doubtlessly aware of the common usages of temporary greenhouses. Indeed, the sponsor’s memorandum states that the bill defines “temporary greenhouse” as a structure “used for the culture and propagation of horticultural commodities.” Obviously, since this is not the actual statutory language, at some point before the bill was introduced, “agricultural” replaced “horticultural.” This was probably intended to broaden the eligible uses for the greenhouses as “in its broad sense the noun agriculture includes horticulture, floriculture, etc.” (DeWeaver v. Jackson & Perkins Co. et al., 271 App.Div. 119, 63 N.Y.S.2d 593, 596 (3d Dept. 1946), aff’d, 297 N.Y. 650, 75 N.E. 752 (1947)). We therefore believe that the statutory drafters intended the exemption to apply to temporary greenhouses used in commercial nursery operations. Again in such case, however, to qualify, the greenhouse must be part of a viable horticultural operation, not just a retail sales outlet. {1}  Here, the plants and flowers in question seemingly would need to be grown in the greenhouses themselves (since the assessor has stated that they are not grown on the adjacent land).

May 17, 2000


{1}  A retail sales outlet which is not part of an agricultural or horticultural operation might possibly qualify for a business investment exemption (RPTL, §485-b).

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