Court Dismisses Legion Of Christ Suit Over Vacant Land

MOUNT PLEASANT, NY — The state Supreme Court recently dismissed a civil rights lawsuit by a religious group against the town for lack of evidence.

The Legion of Christ sued Mount Pleasant officials for religious discrimination after the town 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 civil-rights decision followed a 2020 court ruling 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. This was never about religious discrimination," said Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi. "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 a tax-exempt status for the unimproved parcel, which the Town denied, beginning years of litigation.

The Legionaries 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 there have been stalled efforts to sell it to a developer.

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