Readington Gains Partial Disclosure in Merck Tax Appeal Case

January 6, 2017

A recent legal ruling was covered by the Hunterdon Review. The ruling concerns the public availability of information about the canceled sale of the Merck property. We found the news coverage of the ruling confusing, so we set about untangling the issues. Here is a straightforward summary:  

  • As most people know, the pending sale of the Merck property fell through. ​
  • Merck is appealing their property taxes in an attempt to lower their tax burden.
  • Readington wants to know the sales price of the property in the failed deal so that they can better fight Merck's tax appeal.
  • Readington also wants that information to be made public because it is of such concern in town.
  • Merck does not want the price to be made public because it would affect its negotiating strength in future sales.
  • The judge agreed that Readington should have the information because it is important to defending against the tax appeal.
  • The judge disagreed with making the information public. He cited case law supporting that the public interest is not sufficient in this instance to outweigh the potential negative impact on Merck. 
  • The property is still for sale and the case in question is not related to any new real estate transactions. 

We applaud the township’s effort to bring more transparency to the process on behalf of residents, and to minimize tax losses while the property is on the market. We do understand that publication of such details would damage the owner’s negotiating position, and it is certainly in everyone’s interest for them to conclude a fair sale. The sale of a large property/corporate complex like this is complex enough. The recent deal was amended 8 different times in the year the property was under contract before the purchaser terminated the deal last June. There are many issues on which a sale can fall through, so we are glad the sellers won’t have their hand undermined by publication of the details.  For those who want to read it themselves, Judge Patrick DeAlmeida’s full decision can be found here: