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Torah Center receives tax exemption; Former home of Daytop Village

By Fritz Mayer
May 27, 2016

WHITE LAKE, NY — An organization called YGS Torah Center, which now owns the facility on Route 55 in Swan Lake that was the former home of the drug treatment center Daytop Village, was the subject of a resolution at the Bethel town meeting on May 25.

According to property records, YGS owns five parcels in the town that are assessed at more than $6 million.

Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm said that when Daytop was operating at the location in question it was a tax-exempt organization. The property was bought by YGS, which paid taxes on the property in 2015. YGS went to court to gain a tax exemption on the property, and Sturm read a letter to the board prepared by town attorney Rob McEwan, which said in part, “It appears that the petitioner is likely to prevail in its position that it qualifies for tax exempt status.”

McEwan recommended that the board agree to a settlement that would include granting the tax exemption, but would not require the board to refund the 2015 payment. Sturm also urged the board to settle noting that, “Litigation could cost $15,000 to $20,000,” and that YGS makes a yearly donation to the town of $6,500.

Councilwoman Dawn Ryder said she spent a lot of time researching the issue, and said the laws pertaining to this matter say that if a portion of a property is used for non-religious purposes, that portion could be taxed.

She said that when she discussed the matter with

McEwan, he agreed that one of the parcels might be taxable under the law in question; but as a practical matter, in precedents, the courts have sided with the tax-exempt organization and not with municipalities.

Ryder said, “I found that there is a lot wrong with our laws and our procedures for all of this.” She said McEwan has said he did not “want to waste the town’s money.”

Jonathan Hyman, a land-use consultant, questioned whether accepting the deal was really in the best interest of the town. He said, “If it’s only going to be $15,000 or $20,000 to litigate this thing, maybe you ought to get it on, and put the people in the room, who have been faceless as the LLC that owns this school or Yeshiva…. ” He argued that that would get a result that would be higher than the yearly donation being made. He said, “Drive a hard bargain; don’t roll over.”

Sturm said “I don’t consider it rolling over; I consider it that we have a financial obligation to protect all the taxpayers, and we have an attorney who is very good at these real property tax cases, saying we’re not going to win.”