Good Friday La Salette GN

The faithful make their way up the Holy Stairs at LaSalette Shrine in Attleboro on their knees on Good Friday. The Shrine Monday blasted Attleboro for its denial of a tax abatement application.

ATTLEBORO - The denial of a tax abatement application by city assessors "without explanation," has officials at LaSalette Shrine fuming.

The shrine issued a statement Monday claiming the board of assessors, which has jurisdiction in the matter for the city, has no excuse for the denial.

"A denial without explanation is unreasonable and completely unjustified under the circumstances," Diane C. Tillotson, the shrines's lawyer from the Boston firm of Hemenway & Barnes, said in a press release.

The statement comes about a month after the state's Supreme Judicial Court issued a split decision in the case between the board and the shrine that found that the board is within its rights to tax parts of the shrine that do not relate to its religious mission, but is not within its rights to tax other parts.

Tillotson said the refusal of the board to approve its latest abatement application creates "hardship" for the shrine because it must now pay a $16,517 tax by May 1 to preserve its right to appeal the decision.

She said the money will eventually have to be refunded at 8 percent interest.

The city's chief assessor Stanley Nacewicz said state law prohibits him from discussing details of an abatement that has been denied.

However, he said that certain payments have been delayed because an agreement on the exact percentage of property that is taxable has not been worked out, making it impossible for the board to know how much to refund.

Nacewicz said the SJC remanded that decision to the state's Appellate Tax board and the lawyers on each side to hash out.

There has been no conclusion to date, Nacewicz said.

"The lawyers are discussing it," he said.

The board's lawyer, Michael Siddall of Springfield, did not return a call seeking comment.

Tillotson didn't accept Nacewicz's reasoning.

"Although the assessors may claim difficulty with applying some portions of the Court's decision, it is clear that LaSalette is owed a substantial abatement," she said.

Last month the SJC ruled that a welcome center and maintenance garage on the property are connected to religious worship at the shrine and therefore are tax exempt.

Assessors wanted to tax 40 percent of the value of the welcome center, which includes a restaurant and gift shop, and the full value of the garage.

The SJC also ruled that a non-religious counseling facility and wildlife sanctuary at the Park Street site are taxable.

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(1) comment


My union, AEA, has held meetings at LaSallette in the past. When asked to approve a "donation" of dues money as in-kind recognition of the value of the meeting space, I questioned whether my dues dollar contribution would be viewed as a contribution to religious undertakings there. I was told that my union considered that money to be unaffiliated with religious concerns. Therefore, their earnings from the real estate are not all religiously protected, correct?

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