The issue presented on this reservation
Section 12-81 of the General Statutes exempts from taxation: "(4) ... property belonging to, or held in trust for, a municipal corporation of this state and used for a public purpose." The association is a specially chartered municipal corporation; Sachem's Head Assn. v. Lufkin, 168 Conn. 365, 369, 362 A.2d 519 (1975); Sachem's Head Property Owners' Assn. v. Guilford, 112 Conn. 515, 517-18, 152 A. 877 (1931); but that status, without more, is not sufficient to render its corporate property exempt from taxation under the statute unless
In deciding whether a use suffices in amount and character to qualify for exemption under the statute, courts must weigh all of the circumstances of the use; Fenwick v. Old Saybrook, 133 Conn. 22, 30, 47 A.2d 849 (1946); guided always by the general rule of construction in taxation cases that provisions granting an exemption from a tax are to be construed strictly against the party claiming the exemption. Oxford v. Beacon Falls, 183 Conn. 345, 346, 439 A.2d 348 (1981).
As applied to recreational facilities, such as parks and beaches, we have stated that "[t]he phrase in the statute `used for a public purpose' means a use open to the public, generally, as distinguished from a use available only to a restricted group of privileged individuals." Laurel Beach Assn. v. Milford, supra. Because the subject property is used by the plaintiff as a recreational facility, cases involving the tax exemption of structures or facilities which by their very nature require restricted access, such as Sachem's Head Property Owners' Assn. v. Guilford, supra (water mains), North Haven v. Wallingford, 95 Conn. 544, 111 A. 904 (1920) (power plant), and Hamden v. New Haven, 91 Conn. 589, 101 A. 11 (1917) (poorhouse), are of little assistance to our inquiry. Oxford v. Beacon Falls, supra, 346-47. The plaintiff argues, however, that it is entitled to a tax exemption because its recreational facilities are open to all persons residing within the territorial limits of the association, whether members or nonmembers. Although use of the facilities by such residents may be regarded as a public use to some extent; Fenwick v. Old Saybrook, supra; such incidental use is insufficient to constitute a public use within the meaning of the statute. The group of privileged individuals
The Superior Court is advised that our answer to the first question is "Yes" and that our answer to the second question is "No."
No costs will be taxed in this court to either party.
In this opinion the other judges concurred.
"A. Is the real property located within the limits of the Sachem's Head Association, which is open to the inhabitants of the Sachem's Head Association and their guests as a public beach, park, and playground area, but which is not open to other residents of the Town of Guilford being used for public purposes of the municipal corporation known as the Sachem's Head Association?
"B. If the answer to the above question is in the affirmative, is such use such as exempts the real property of the municipal corporation known as the Sachem's Head Association from taxation by the Town of Guilford, pursuant to General Statute 12-81 (4)?"