New York Institute for Education of the Blind v. Town of Wolcott

In New York Institute for Education of the Blind v. Town of Wolcott, 128 Vt. 280, 286, 262 A.2d 451, 455 (1970), the Court held that blind children were an indefinite class of persons and the institute which provided them remedial education, having met all other prerequisites, was tax exempt under 3802(4). 128 Vt. at 287, 262 A.2d at 455. In rejecting the town's argument that blind children constituted a definite class of people so as to preclude a grant of tax exemption to the school, we observed that "class" is "a group determined by choice or selection and implies some kind of voluntary action or judgment," and rejected as "unrealistic" the argument that being blind places a person in a distinctive category or class of people under the law. Id. at 286-87, 262 A.2d at 455. The Court emphasized that the institute was a school for educating members of the public, "who because of blindness need specialized training." Id. at 287, 262 A.2d at 455. In reaching this determination the Court distinguished the indefinite class of blind children from the definite class of Boy Scouts in Fort Orange Council, Inc. v. French, 119 Vt. 378, 125 A.2d 835 (1956), and the definite class of Peace Corps volunteers in Experiment in International Living, Inc. v. Town of Brattleboro, 127 Vt. 41, 238 A.2d 782 (1968), by pointing out that in those cases "the matter of membership in a particular group as a prerequisite to receiving the benefits of the property was an important, if not a deciding, factor in the decision of the court." New York Inst., 128 Vt. at 287, 262 A.2d at 455. Further, the Court observed that in Fort Orange the use of the real estate was not extended to any groups other than Boy Scouts, thus resulting in "a closed circle to those outside the organization." New York Inst., 128 Vt. at 286, 262 A.2d at 455. While the Court did acknowledge that the institute was open to "blind children without restriction as to race, creed or any other limitation except for capacity of its facilities," id., it appears that its decision was not based on any examination of the organization's non-discriminatory process of selecting its beneficiaries.