Volume 6 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 50
Farm structures and buildings exemption (agricultural use) (structure used for storage) - Real Property Tax Law § 483:
A building constructed as a separate venture by a farm cooperative for storing the members’ produce would not be eligible for a farm structures and buildings exemption under section 483 of the Real Property Tax Law.
Our opinion has been requested as to the eligibility for exempt status of a produce storage facility to be built by a farm cooperative for use by its members, and perhaps by nonmembers.
Certain farm buildings and structures are entitled to real property tax exemption pursuant to section 483 of the Real Property Tax Law. This section specifically includes buildings necessary for the storage of agricultural and horticultural commodities (§ 483(3)(a); see, 1 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 118 which states that a structure located on a farm producing apples and used for the cold storage of apples so produced may be eligible). However, the section is limited in its application to “[s]tructures and buildings essential to the operation of lands actively devoted to agricultural or horticultural use” (§ 483(1)). That section 483 was intended to benefit only those structures used in conjunction with a particular farming operation is further substantiated by the roll-back provisions set forth in subdivision 8 which provide for the imposition of a roll-back tax “[i]n the event that land or buildings or structures in agricultural or horticultural use are converted to nonagricultural or non-horticultural use.”
The structure described here would not be essential to any particular parcel of land but rather would be intended for the convenience of the several members. Additionally, the possibility that the facility would be available to nonmembers makes more explicit the fact that it is not essential to the operation of any particular productive land (see, 2 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 43 which states that where a portion of a structure is leased for storage purposes of other farmers, no exemption may be allowed on the leased portion).
As a general rule, statutes granting exemption from taxation must be strictly construed (Lawrence Smith School v. City of New York, 280 N.Y. 805, 21 N.E.2d 693). If ambiguity or uncertainty occurs, all doubts should be resolved against exemption (People v. Brooklyn Garden Apts., 283 N.Y. 373, 28 N.E.2d 877).
Accordingly, it is our opinion that a building constructed as a separate venture by a farm cooperative for storing members’ produce would not be eligible for an exemption pursuant to section 483 of the Real Property Tax Law.
March 22, 1979