Appeals from order of Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, Dec. T., 1964, Nos. 35 and 74, in re appeal of Lancaster Theological Seminary of United Church of Christ from decision of Board for the Assessment and Revision of Taxes of Lancaster County.
Carl G. Herr, for appellant.
T. Roberts Appel, II, with him Appel, Ranck, Herr & Appel, for appellee.
Ervin, P. J., Wright, Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, and Hoffman, JJ. (Flood, J., absent). Opinion by Hoffman, J. Watkins, J., dissents.
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The Lancaster County Board for the Assessment and Revision of Taxes [Board] appeals from the order of the lower court directing it to exempt from local taxation certain real estate owned by The Lancaster Theological Seminary of the United Church of Christ [Seminary].
The appeal involves the application of § 204 of The General County Assessment Law to three dwelling houses owned by the Seminary and occupied rent-free by professors and their families. This section provides: "The following property shall be exempt from all county, city, borough, town, township, road, poor and school tax, to wit: . . . (c) All . . . seminaries . . . and institutions of learning, benevolence, or charity . . . with the grounds thereto annexed and necessary for the occupancy and enjoyment of the same, founded,
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endowed, and maintained by public or private charity. . . ." Act of May 22, 1933, P. L. 853, art. II, § 204, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5020-204.
The parties have stipulated that appellee is a "seminary" and an "institution of learning" which is "founded, endowed, and maintained by public charity." Accordingly, the only issue to be decided is whether the professors' homes are "necessary for the occupancy and enjoyment" of the exempt institution. The lower court found that the professors' homes are necessary, because they are ". . . a component part of the overall plan and practice of instruction of the students of the Seminary." The Board urges, however, that the use of the Seminary-owned homes is not necessary to further the educational objectives of the institution.
In our opinion, the Board incorrectly interpreted the term "necessary." Our courts have held that "necessary" means not "absolute necessity," but rather "reasonable necessity," embracing the idea of convenience and usefulness for the purposes intended. Barnes Foundation v. Keely, 314 Pa. 112, 118, 171 A. 267, 269 (1934); County of Lancaster v. Y.W.C.A. of Lancaster, 92 Pa. Superior Ct. 514, 518 (1928). The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has specifically stated that the "real nub" of a controversy involving these tax exemption provisions ". . . is the use to which the residence . . . is put." University of Pittsburgh Tax Exemption Case, 407 Pa. 416, 422, 180 A.2d 760, 762 (1962).
This principle was applied in the University of Pittsburgh case, supra, in determining the tax exempt status of the chancellor's residence. The property was owned by the university and located approximately 2 1/2 miles from the campus. The chancellor used his home for receiving and entertaining student organizations, faculty members, ...