To the Editor,
Belleville taxpayers should prepare for another huge, LONG TERM, tax increase courtesy of the “Gang of Seven”, aka the Township Council. The Council continues to cater to developers who are intent on building high density housing units in our already densely populated Township. When you exclude the one square mile of county golf course from our 3.2 square mile Township, we have 36,000 residents crammed into two square miles. Sardines?
While these developers want to build these high density housing units, they do not want to pay the same tax rate that the rest of us pay. So, our Council accommodates them by declaring the property they want, “AN AREA IN NEED OF REDEVELOPMENT”. The Planning Board conveniently recommends the selected site is “An Area in Need of Redevelopment”, and the Council then accepts their recommendation. By doing so, the Council can then bypass our Zoning Ordinance and grant the developer anything he desires, without much public input.
Several years ago, the Council declared our school #1 site “An Area in Need of Redevelopment”. They sold the land and the school building to a developer for $1 million. The developer’s contract stated that the Township had to demolish the school, (which we desperately need), and remediate the land, AT TAXPAYER’S expense. After spending approximately $600,000 of the $1 million we received, the developer backed out of the project. So, we taxpayers netted $400,000 and we have no school. Great fiscal minds, this “Gang of Seven”.
The latest project is the “Terry St. and Cortlandt St.”development. A developer wants to build a 115 unit rental building on a 76′ wide lot, 70′ tall, 5 stories, and DEFICIENT by over 100 parking spaces. The developer wants a tax abatement, known as a PILOT,” Payment in Lieu of Taxes”. If this project was to pay the same tax rate that you and I pay, the taxes would be over one million dollars. But the PILOT, known as “The Financial Agreement”, states the annual payment will be $297,504, or only $2586 ANNUALLY per unit.
We, the taxpayers who are paying average annual taxes of $9000 plus, will be subsidizing this wealthy developer. The developer’s financial statement shows he will have a $1,676,857 NET income. While the project will only be paying about 25% of the taxes they should pay, we will be providing full services, i.e. garbage pickup, police & fire service, student education, recreation, C.O. inspections of rental units, water and sewer expenses, dog/cat licenses, marriage & death certificates, etc.
Is your stomach churning yet?
The Council is also planning to give a PILOT to the 246 unit SOHO development. Another development is rumored to be a Belmont Ave. project of several hundred units. Open your wallets wider, folks, if there is anything left in it. Also note that the Council gets 95% of the PILOT and the County gets 5%. Our schools get nothing, hence our school tax bill will increase.
A recent report by Matthew Boxer, our former state comptroller, stated many flaws in the municipal tax abatement program. Among them, “abatements artificially depress the ratable property base”‘, “standards for designating “redevelopment areas” eligible for abatements are loosely applied and rarely reviewed”, “developers seeking abatements may, without repercussion, overpromise benefits that do not materialize”, and “information concerning abatement agreements is not published in a transparent manner or centralized location for the public to review and analyze”.
It’s time for residents to rise up once again and demand our elected officials act in our best interests, NOT the wealthy developers who would not even dream of living in our town. Next Township meeting is January 24, at 6:30 pm at Town Hall.
Vincent J. Frantantoni
129 Mt. Prospect Ave
Belleville, Nj 07109