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Ruling keeps nuns' house off tax rolls

| Wednesday, March 10, 2004

An order of nuns that successfully sued Fayette County to have its small retreat house taken off the tax rolls has won an appeal brought by the county.

The Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh filed suit last year against the county after an unsuccessful attempt to have a 4.2-acre Springfield Township property removed from the tax rolls.

The sisters purchased the property in 1987 for $69,000. It has a small ranch house on the property that was built in 1960, according to tax records.

After trial in Common Pleas Court last year, the request was granted over the county's objections.

The nuns testified that the property was used for spiritual retreats, adoration, prayer, meditation and an occasional Mass.

The county appealed to Commonwealth Court, which held in a short opinion handed down this week that the property was used for "regularly stated worship" and was not a vacation home, as the county had contended.

County Solicitor Joe Ferens said he will confer with commissioners to determine the county's position on whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Prior to the decision, the property was billed approximately $1,216 annually in property taxes.

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