The four acres surrounding the Cutter Chapel in Lyndeborough, owned by the United Church of Christ, will be subject to taxation after the state's Board of Land and Tax Appeals rejected the church's claim that the property should be tax-exempt. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER PHOTO)
Lyndeborough church loses its tax appeal
Paul and Mary Lemire, who head the United Church of Christ, learned last week that their appeal of the town of Lyndeborough's decision to tax a four-acre parcel of land owned by the church had been denied by the New Hampshire Board of Land and Tax Appeals.
For years, the church argued that the land was tax-exempt because it was owned by a religious organization and would be used in the future for a new church building.
But some folks in town argued that the land, assessed at around $45,000, wasn't being used for religious services or events and thus didn't qualify for the tax exemption.
The church responded by building a small chapel on the land, complete with tiny pews and religious icons, and argued that people could worship at the chapel.
The problem, however, according to the board of selectmen, was that people weren't worshiping at Cutter Chapel.
In August, selectmen sent the church a letter saying that they were going to start taxing the property beyond the area where the chapel and the parking lot sit - a move that would add about $1,000 per year to the general fund.
"I am very disappointed with the recent ruling, but not surprised since it follows the current trend of disrespect that communities are showing toward religious entities," said Paul Lemire. "We are a small church with limited resources that will now have to pay into a system that is wasteful and inefficient."
Kevin Boette, chairman of the Lyndeborough Board of Selectmen, said he wasn't surprised by the result.
"They did not meet or even come close to the burden of proof required to gain tax-exempt status," Boette said.