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State Supreme Court Dismisses Religious Discrimination Suit Against Mount Pleasant

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A civil rights lawsuit brought by the Legion of Christ against the Town of Mount Pleasant accusing the municipality of religious discrimination has been dismissed in state Supreme Court.

The Legion of Christ sued the town after it determined that the Legion’s undeveloped, 161-acre property in Thornwood was taxable. The Roman Catholic order, based in Cheshire, Conn., had sought a tax-exempt status as a religious group.

The July 6 decision followed a court ruling last year that the property was fully taxable.

“I’m pleased that the Supreme Court continues to uphold the town assessor’s determination of the taxability of the Legion’s 161-acre vacant property,” Mount Pleasant Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi said in a statement. “This was never about religious discrimination. The two decisions are an enormous benefit to the taxpayers of the town ensuring that our institutional properties are paying their fair share of property taxes so that the property tax burden of our residents is mitigated.”

The Legion bought the former conference center in 1996. It consisted of two parcels, a 164-acre unimproved area and a contiguous 97-acre parcel that contained the conference center. In 1997, the Legion applied to the Town for tax-exempt status for the unimproved parcel, which the Town denied, beginning years of litigation.

The Legion of Christ no longer owns the former conference center. In 2017, EF Academy opened a private boarding high school on the property. The Legion still owns the unimproved parcel and efforts to sell the property to a developer have failed so far.

This isn’t the first time the Legion has landed in court related to its Mount Pleasant properties. Baker Residential was in contract to buy the unimproved parcel and build about 73 homes as part of a cluster subdivision, but went to state Supreme Court after the Legion failed to convey the property.

Eventually, Baker Residential, which had received town approvals to build the project, decided against moving forward.

Earlier this year, Fulgenzi said that Chappaqua-based Wilder Balter Partners has expressed interest in the property to possibly build senior housing.

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