Despite a scheduled special meeting to discuss the proposed Avalon Bay Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program Thursday, some members of the public questioned the proposal early during Tuesday night's work session meeting.
On Thursday, the council will consider voting on a program that would allow the developer of the court-mandated luxury apartment complex under construction on Union Avenue to make payments to the borough in lieu of taxes for the next 30 years. Bloomingdale Mayor Jonathan Dunleavy has said the benefit to the borough would be that money that would typically go to the board of education from taxes would go to the municipality instead. The borough would receive 95 percent of the collected payments and the county would receive 5 percent. After 30 years, regular taxation would apply.
At Tuesday night's meeting, Dunleavy said the the program is designed so that after several years of using the money gained to pay down the borough's debt, the PILOT program could benefit taxpayers in the form of tax relief. In years when taxes ordinarily would increase, Dunleavy believes that the PILOT could help keep taxes from raising.
"The whole goal here is not to buy new toys. It's not to change our lifestyle. It's to pay down debt," he said.
At the council's Aug. 14 meeting, the Avalon Bay section of Union Avenue a redevelopment zone so that the program could be considered. Dunleavy said his hope is that other parts of Union Avenue and Main Street are also designated as redevelopment zones to potentially consider the program in those areas as well.
Dunleavy encouraged the council and public to discuss the program in more depth at Thursday's meeting, as the majority of council members had not yet had the opportunity to learn about the negotiated PILOT agreement before an executive session portion of Tuesday's meeting. Councilwoman Linda Shortman asked that the executive session discussion about the agreement be made public. But Dunleavy said since the agreement has not yet been presented to the council members, it is technically still a matter of negotiations and was not appropriate for public discussion.
Shortman inquired about how the feels about the proposed PILOT program and why she has not heard feedback from board members or school district officials. Speaking on behalf of himself and not the board, Bloomingdale Board of Education Member Rich Dellaripa said there have been discussions about the program but that it would not appear to greatly affect the school district.
"We're not expecting any significant impact to the board of education from Avalon Bay," he said.
If a situation arose where an influx of students resulted from Avalon Bay during the 30 years, Dunleavy said the borough would provide funding to help offset the costs.
"If there is a proven need of increased costs in education, the borough would commit to funding that need," he said.
Resident Rich DuHaime took issue with the length of the agreement and said the decision of the current council could affect future borough leaders.
"You're giving them 30 years of a benefit. You have to think about that before you make this decision," he said.
Councilman Glenn Schiffman also noted the length of time of the proposed agreement.
"In 30 years, I'll be 79," he said. "Who does a 30-year deal except for a mortgage?"
Resident Kurt Kramer said he felt the numbers the council used in the proposed agreement were "questionable" and that by not paying typical taxes, in his opinion, the other taxpayers of the borough will suffer. He said that other Bloomingdale apartment complexes were not given similar programs that would benefit them and, as such, the program is not fair. He said that if approved, the program would be a "tremendous morale depressor in this town."
But Dunleavy said the program is designed to attract new developers to Bloomingdale.
"The whole goal is to incentivize and bring something that doesn't exist," he said.
Resident Mike Azzolino asked that the council not act on approving or not approving the PILOT program during Thursday's meeting because he does not feel the council would have sufficient time to consider the comments of the public.
"I still think time is needed to digest what the public has to say," he said.
Councilman Mark Conklin suggested the Thursday meeting be canceled altogether, as he feels that even with the legally mandated advertising time, the public may not be aware of the meeting because of the holiday weekend. But the meeting is still scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Bloomingdale Borough Hall, 101 Hamburg Turnpike.