Vermont Wild Land Foundation v. Town of Pittsford
In Vermont Wild Land Foundation v. Town of Pittsford, 137 Vt. 439, 407 A.2d 174 (1979), the Court denied tax exempt status for a tract of undeveloped wilderness where the foundation in control of the land restricted access to a limited number of preapproved scientific researchers.
Researchers and others interested in accessing the area were required to submit applications and attend interviews. Those deemed acceptable by the foundation were permitted to use the property. The foundation in that case argued that although the public at large was not permitted to use the property, it nonetheless benefitted from the fruit of the research performed on the land, and further benefitted from preservation of an undisturbed wilderness area.
The issue of whether the beneficiaries constituted a definite or indefinite class of persons was not specifically raised, yet underlying our decision to deny tax exempt status was commitment to the principle that limited use of land by a select group constituted a private, as opposed to general, or indefinite benefit.
"It is not essential that every member of the community be actually served. But the benefits conferred must be upon the public at large, or an indefinite part of such public . . . rather than a closed circle or group determined by choice or selection. " Vermont Wild Land Found., 137 Vt. at 443, 407 A.2d at 176-77.