Hildene remains tax-exempt

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(Host) The former Lincoln estate in Manchester will not lose its tax exempt status.

The state had earlier determined that most of the Hildene estate should be taxed, but the owners of the property had asked the state to reconsider.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) Fifteen years ago, Manchester voters approved a measure that exempted the owners of the former home of Robert Todd Lincoln from paying property taxes.

But earlier this year the state told the non-profit Friends of Hildene that all but fifty acres of the 410 acre property should be taxed.

At the time, Hildene officials said requiring them to pay property taxes would likely force them to sell off most of the property and would mean the end of the popular tourist destination.

Hildene asked the state to reconsider. Now the Department of Property Valuation and Review says Hildene has shown it should retain its tax exempt status.

Seth Bongartz is Hildene’s Executive Director.

(Bongartz) “For Hildene to be taxed in any significant way would really mean its demise. So, yes, everybody from the board to the staff to the volunteers to the community at large is very relieved.”

(Zind) Bongartz says Hildene’s case was being watched by other similar tax-exempt organizations in Vermont.

Alec Webb is President of Shelburne Farms. Webb says it would be impossible to sustain the fourteen hundred acre farm without the property tax exemption.

(Webb) “Especially in an environment like Shelburne Farms is in, which is in a highly developed part of the state. The property values here are so high that we simply would be able to absorb that kind of expense in our operating budget.”

(Zind) Webb says he’s been following Hildene’s efforts to reverse the state’s decision.

He says Shelburne Farms’ tax exempt status has not been questioned.

State officials say the review of Hildene’s tax status is part of an ongoing review of tax exempt properties in every town to assure equity in the way property taxes are levied.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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