Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County in case of In Re: Appeal of Catasauqua Area School District from Decision of the Board of Assessment Appeals of the County of Lehigh, Pennsylvania, and Exempting Certain Real Property of Woodlawn Memorial Park Association from Real Estate Taxes, No. 307 April Term, 1976.
Frederick J. Lanshe, with him Lanshe, Lanshe and Lanshe, for appellant.
Thomas E. Weaver, Jr., with him Weaver, Weaver & Weaver, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Mencer and Rogers, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer.
[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 372]
This appeal is taken by Woodlawn Memorial Park Association (Woodlawn), a nonprofit cemetery association, from a determination that a 20.322-acre parcel of land owned by Woodlawn is not entitled to a property tax exemption under Section 204(a)(2) of The General County Assessment Law (Act), Act of May 22, 1933, P.L. 853, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5020-204(a)(2).
[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 373]
Woodlawn applied for and was granted a tax exemption by the Lehigh County Board of Assessment Appeals (Board). The Catasauqua Area School District (Catasauqua) appealed the Board's decision to the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County which, after a trial de novo, reversed the Board's decision and denied the exemption. This appeal followed.
The land in question was acquired by Woodlawn in 1963. Prior to the fall of 1975, the land had not been used for any purpose and had not been improved. Before January 1, 1976, the entire tract was surveyed, plotted, and furrowed. An area of approximately 3.6 acres was seeded, landscaped, and provided with an access road. Evergreens and shrubs roughly outline the perimeter of the seeded area. In April and May of 1976, the first three lots were sold and two interments took place in the seeded area.
The question before this Court is whether the land belonging to Woodlawn qualifies as an "actual" place of burial within the meaning of Section 204, such that it is entitled to a tax exemption.
Section 204 of the Act provides:
(a) The following property shall be exempt from all county, city, borough, town, township, road, poor and school tax, to wit:
(2) All actual places of burial, including burial grounds and all mausoleums, vaults, crypts or structures intended to hold or contain the bodies of the dead, when used or held by a person or organization deriving no private or corporate profit therefrom and no substantial part of whose activity consists ...