Town sued over denial of tax-exempt status

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HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany has filed suit against the town of Hoosick, seeking tax-exempt status for a rental property it purchased in the village of Hoosick Falls six months ago.

Tony Rice, the town assessor, told the Banner that he denied the organization's request for tax-exempt status for a single-family home at 97 Church St. because the building is not being put to religious use. According to paperwork filed by the diocese, the building, purchased for $30,000 in late February, is being converted into a two-family rental building for low-income tenants, Rice said.

The organization confirmed that intention to the Banner Monday.

Catholic Charities filed suit in the Supreme Court of Rensselaer County in late July, months after Rice's decision.

The organization is challenging the decision because the organization is a non-profit, and all its affordable housing projects are tax-exempt, as they meet the criteria for that exemption, Paul McAvoy, a spokesman for the organization, said in an email.

"In seeking that status for this property Catholic Charities is not asking for anything that we aren't entitled to under the law," he said.

The purchase of the building is part of Catholic Charities' 100th anniversary campaign effort to purchase properties with donated funds that can be renovated and made available to the working poor as affordable housing, McAvoy said. Catholic Charities currently owns eight affordable housing properties containing 19 apartments, he said.

No funding from the Diocese of Albany was used to purchase or renovate the building, he said.

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The two-story building is 2,317 square feet, with four bedrooms, according to its listing on Realtor.com. It was built in 1840.

Rice is being sued in his capacity as assessor, along with the Board of Assessment Review of the Town of Hoosick.

The case is scheduled for preliminary conference Oct. 18 at 9:30 a.m. at the Rensselaer County Courthouse in Troy, New York, according to the court clerk's office.

When reached by phone Monday, R. Christopher Dempf, the lawyer representing Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany in the case, declined to comment. A call placed to the town's attorney, Jonathan Schopf, was not returned.

The Diocese of Albany has been embroiled in months-long controversy in the village of Hoosick Falls over its plans for Immaculate Conception Church, a circa-1870 building that has been plagued by flooding, mold and falling ceiling plaster.

The church has been unusable since late May; services have been held at the First United Church in the village.

Concerned citizens have formed a grassroots campaign, Save the Hoosick Falls Immaculate Conception Church, holding demonstrations and publicly decrying what they say is lack of willingness on the part of the diocese to repair the building.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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