In contrast to the hours of heated discussion and comments regarding the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program Bloomingdale had considered entering into with Bloomingdale Urban Renewal, LLC (formerly known as AvalonBay) last year, the re-introduction of the ordinance for the agreement was approved rather quietly Tuesday.
Bloomingdale Urban Renewal is building a 174-unit luxury apartment complex on Union Avenue. Little discussion was had at Tuesday night's council meeting on the agreement, which would grant the borough payments at the same time as taxes are typically paid for the next 30 years. The payments would be made at a minimum of $550,000 per year with the borough retaining 95 percent of the money; the county retaining 5 percent and the school district not receiving money with the exception of a land tax credit. The developer would also be responsible for all garbage and snow plow services, while the borough typically reimburses a complex for those services.
Re-introduction of the ordinance was permissable in the new year after the ordinance died by rejection of the council's Republican majority last year. With two new council members sworn in on Jan. 1, the council majority members are now Democrats.
In 2012, the council heard and saw PowerPoint presentations by Councilman Ray Yazdi about the financial benefits to entering into such an agreement with the developer. Yazdi said the money that would be brought in by the program would exceed the amount the borough would earn through standard taxation and both he and Mayor Jonathan Dunleavy promised taxpayers that the money generated would be used to pay down the borough's debt and eventually stabilize taxes.
Council members took the first step in solidifying that promise Tuesday as they voted unanimously in favor of introducing an accompanying ordinance that pledges all money gained through the PILOT program be used to pay down borough debt. However, the vote on introducing the ordinance for the PILOT, itself, was not unanimously approved, with Republican members Linda Shortman and Mark Conklin voting against the introduction. Shortman, who has been vocal in her opposition of the PILOT in the past, spoke briefly about the issue.
"I haven't really changed my mind and I won't support this motion," she said.
Shortman said she feels it is important for the council to have discussion before voting on issues, but that this issue has been discussed at length.
Dunleavy has described the Bloomingdale Urban Renewal PILOT as opening the door up for more potential redevelopment in the borough. Also Tuesday, the council voted to introduce an ordinance that would hire a firm to perform studies and plans related to redevelopment in New Jersey Highlands designated areas in the borough. Bloomingdale was awarded a $130,000 grant for redevelopment by the New Jersey Highlands Council, Dunleavy said.
"This is the beginning of some great production for our borough," the mayor said.
Dunleavy said the Highlands grant could lead to more PILOT programs, tax abatements and incentives with other developers. He said he is particularly interested in attracting more development to Union Avenue and Main Street. More development would translate to more ratables which Dunleavy said would help the borough further pay down debt and stabilize taxes. As for the Bloomingdale Urban Renewal PILOT, Dunleavy said it would be a "catalyst" for continued development in the area.
A public hearing will be held on the ordinance on Jan. 22, at which time the council could vote to finalize the agreement.