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Moultonboro tax-exemption decisions for LRCT, Center Harbor church on hold

May 05, 2010
MOULTONBORO — The Board of Selectmen will wait to decide on tax-exempt status for properties owned by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust and the Center Harbor Christian Church pending further information.

The board reviewed five properties that had applied for tax-exempt status from the town during their Thursday meeting.

Resident Alan Ballard raised concerns about the tax-exempt status of the Lakes Region Conservation Trust.

The trust owns and manages around 11 properties in Moultonboro as well as Castle in the Clouds, which is managed as a separate nonprofit organization, the Castle Preservation Trust.

Ballard said he had concerns that the trust was more of a commercial venture, especially with the money made from Castle in the Clouds.

"I think this is a question of fairness," Ballard said, saying the trust should be under a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement and not tax-exempt status. "Throw something in to indicate they are here to help the town and not bleed it to death."

Ballard said if something happens at the Castle, such as a van going off the road or an alarm activation, it will be town agencies that respond to those calls.

Resident Cristina Ashjian emphasized that the Castle and the Conservation Trust are two separate nonprofit organizations. Ballard said it seemed the LRCT was hiding behind that status.

Selectman Betsy Patten said she wanted to invite representatives from the LRCT to a selectmen's meeting to discuss their work before a decision is made on their tax-exempt status.

If the LRCT does not meet with the board, the board may choose to not give them exempt status.

"All we're doing is asking for information and we have a right to do that as a Board of Selectmen in my opinion," Patten said.

The board approved tabling the motion until they received further information from the LRCT. A discussion with the LRCT is scheduled for Thursday's Selectmen's meeting.

The board also tabled a request for tax-exempt status for the Center Harbor Christian Church.

Pastor Robert Farah has been named in lawsuits connected to the sudden closures of Financial Resources Mortgage, managed by Farah's son Scott Farah, and CL and M, managed by Scott Farah's business partner Donald Dodge, suddenly closed in November of 2009 with millions of dollars left unaccounted for. Dodge and Scott Farah have since been indicted on fraud charges.

"I just don't want to see the town get into any complications," said Selectman Ed Charest.

Selectman Karel Crawford said the church is still a church until proven otherwise.

Board Chair Joel Mudgett said the church had checked off in its paperwork that it was a charitable organization, which required more paperwork to be filed than had been.

The board decided to table the church's request until the proper forms were filled out for a charitable organization or the church corrected their application.

The Board will also discuss the Center Harbor Christian Church's request at its May 6 meeting.

The board unanimously approved requests for tax-exempt status from Huggins Hospital and the Squam Lakes Conservation Society as a charitable organizations and Bank of America/Loon Preservation Committee as an educational organization.

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