PILOT Program Sparks Another Heated Discussion in Bloomingdale

Residents offered their critiques of officials' stances on the proposed Payment in Lieu of Taxes program for AvalonBay.

Pointed words and pointing fingers took center stage during Tuesday’s Bloomingdale Council meeting as members of the public questioned multiple council members and the mayor about their stances on the AvalonBay Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program.

The PILOT program would give the developer of AvalonBay, a luxury apartment complex on Union Avenue, the ability to make payments to the borough in lieu of paying taxes for 30 years. The majority of the money collected from the payments would be retained by the borough, as oppose to going to the school district and the county.

The comments, which stretched the early public discussion section of the meeting to nearly two hours, come two weeks after Republican Council Members Mark Conklin, Jo-Ann Pituch and Linda Shortman walked out of the Oct. 9 meeting. The walkout occurred as the result of Councilman Ray Yazdi, a Democrat, bringing up the PILOT program ordinance, which had been rejected by the council in September.

Yazdi had also voted against the ordinance, along with the Republican council majority members, so that he would legally be able to bring the topic up again for discussion at future meetings.

Many of the comments Tuesday, which ranged from critiques to accusations, were directed toward Pituch, who voted against the PILOT program and included information about it in a re-election campaign flier. Resident John Darcey kicked off the public discussion by asking Pituch to explain why she rejected the program. Pituch eventually delivered her stance when Darcey requested the answer again during the late public discussion session, saying “the vote has been taken” and that she will not change her mind.

“I believe AvalonBay should pay their fair share of taxes,” Pituch said. “[The PILOT program] is not in the best interest of the taxpayers.”

Darcey also brought up Pituch’s flier, which includes information about how many children could potentially be housed in the luxury rentals, as well as the effect they would have on the school district.

“I saw the flier, as well, and the math on the flier is alarming,” Mayor Jonathan Dunleavy said, referring to the handout’s statement that AvalonBay might bring in up to 130 students.

Within the 174-unit complex, there are projected to be 121 extra bedrooms. Dunleavy said that, based on the studies presented by AvalonBay a few years back during the planning board process, only 12 students are projected.

“What the author of that flier has done is put a child or two in every [extra] bedroom,” the mayor said.

But resident Rich DuHaime took issue with Dunleavy “beating up on Jo-Ann and beating a dead horse.”

“If you want to talk about smoke and mirrors, you are the best at it,” DuHaime said to Dunleavy. “You’re great at deception.”

The mayor responded saying that, to combat any presumptions of deception, an ordinance would be introduced later in the meeting stating that all PILOT programs in the borough would be dedicated to tax relief and debt statement. Yazdi and Dunleavy have said that all money brought in by the PILOT program, a minimum of $550,000 per year that is expected to grow by at least 2 percent per year, according to Yazdi, would be used to pay down the borough's nearly $12 million debt and stabilize taxes. That ordinance was ultimately rejected on introduction by the four Republican council members, although Shortman said she might be interested in revisiting it after it is reviewed by the council’s Ordinance Committee.

Echoing similar comments he has made at previous meetings, Borough Administrator Ted Ehrenburg said everybody keeps arguing that they do not like the PILOT program. However, the AvalonBay rentals will be built no matter what and he said he never hears any other options for bringing in funds.

“Every time we bring this up, people say, ‘We don’t like this’ or ‘We don’t like that,’” Ehrenburg said. “At the end of the day, there will be no services in this town."

“There is going to be such collateral damage, I don’t know when you folks are going to go, ‘Wait a minute...’ There’s no new money coming in.”

A few residents asked Pituch and Shortman specifically what their plans to decrease the borough’s debt would be.

“I don’t see any other way, than with this PILOT program, that we can reduce our taxes, which keep going up,” Cecelia Lael, of Pine Tree Road, said. “I’m asking you to say what your plan is so we can determine whether we want to vote for people who are going to reduce our debt or do nothing about it.”

Shortman said, after listening to about 15 hours about the PILOT program in the past several months, she does not believe it will successfully reduce the debt or taxes.

Instead, Shortman suggested reassessing and renegotiating employment contracts, selling a building that was bought for $550,000 with the intention of it becoming a police station, beautifying downtown to make it more attractive for new businesses and simply stopping spending.

“Knock It Off!”

While many residents aimed to question or comment individual council members, some took issue with the vitriol being exchanged between council members.

After Yazdi transitioned from talking about the statements Pituch made in her flier to talking about her council record – saying that she has no plan and that “all she can do is scare you” – resident Jack Miller quickly approached the podium, saying he could not take it anymore.

“Stop! These people work with you,” Miller said, addressing Yazdi. “All you do is badger and belittle people. That’s what you’re doing.”

Miller then addressed the rest of the representative on the dais, saying everybody is pointing a finger at somebody else.

“Knock it off!” he said, drawing applause from the audience. “Work together for the town.”

Dunleavy responded saying that if he has an idea for bringing revenue to the town and feels he is being stifled, he will not let it go.

“If I don’t agree with somebody’s position, I absolutely am [going to argue],” the mayor said.

Sally Fane October 24, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I think it bears repeating that the attorney said this PILOT program can be cancelled by us at any time. That means, if it doesn't work out, we nullify the contract and Avalon Bay pays their fair share of taxes, so why wouldn't you want to try something? Particularly when you have no other ideas? In addition, the worst case scenario of 130 students still won't be covered by the "normal" taxes collected by Avalon Bay; their taxes are static, they don't go up based on how many kids they "flood" our schools with just like your taxes don't go down if you don't have kids in the school system. The majority is hanging their argument on this one issue, Linda Huntley's argument is "what if?" Well, Linda, what if it works out? We don't know unless we try and the intrinsic benefit is that Bloomingdale is positioned as a town that cares about itself, wants to progress is willing to work with businesses to bring new blood into town. How could you listen to Ted Ehrenberg and not be scared for our town. Maybe the PILOT isn't the right answer, but it's a step in the right direction, it's a step in any direction, not doing anything moves us further and further backwards. I am confident that the people of Bloomingdale will speak up on Nov. 6.
judith caputo October 24, 2012 at 04:57 PM
To my knowledge no one has addressed the issue of who is in charge of birth control at Avalon Bay? The mayor consistently states that there is a "projected 12 student" enrollment. Is he going to hand out birth control or is Planned Parenthood going to be involved? If there are 121 extra bedrooms in this development it makes sense that they will most likely be used as bedrooms for the children born to the inhabitants of these apartments. Stating that 12 children are projected to enter our school system is extremely irresponsible on his part. Is he planning on having a lottery to see which couples are allowed to procreate? The potential for 50, 70 or more children is a reality, so stop trying to sell your theory that the school system will not be affected by an increase in students. It's insulting to the majority of the people in this town who know better, especially for those who know how you love to manipulate "facts".
Jon Dunleavy October 24, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Judy,I did not make up the number of 12 students from Avalon Bay.This number was provided in testimony during the planning board process.This number is based on comparisons to similar projects as well as other Avalon Bay projects.Based on your theory the total number of student from Waterfall Village and TreeTop should be 70 but is is only 15.Please explain why avalon bay would be any different.The number of students has nothing to do with the Pilot.The revenue generated from the Pilot is the exact amount of revenue the Borough including the Board of Eduation would receive under normal taxation.As stated numerous times, if there is an impact to the cost of education then the Pilot revenue will be used to share in that cost. Last night,I attempted to introduce such an ordinance declaring all Pilot revenue from any Borough program must be dedicated to tax relief,debt reduction and to cover any increased cost of education, but the majority voted no for this ordinance. Best case, 12 or less students, no increase cost to schools and the Pilot money is used to pay down debt and stablize taxes.Worse case there are enough students to use all of the $321,000 of the Pilot revenue otherwise intended to the schools and if this money must be expended to cover such cost then we are exactly in the same situation as if we collected regular tax.Though even in this scenario we still benefit from the Pilot by not providing garbage and snow plow and have eliminated any future tax appeals.
Sample October 24, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Parents will not move to Bloomingdale for the schools. They are a work in process and they don't even have a High School. Given a choice most parents will look at Kinnelon, ranked 21 on the list of best high school in NJ...Butler is ranked 200.
PCB Social Media Arts October 24, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Judy...you CANT be serious. Waterfall Village has thirty less units/extra bedrooms and only 4 students to our district. The other one has 110 units and only 11 students. You say it is irresponsible to tout only 12...isnt it equally irresponsible to use scare tactics and project 130? You are on cloud 9 Judy, but I understand where you are coming from and the voters should take heed. The reps do not have a leg to stand on as far as touting their record and so they are making Avalon Bay their "Alamo". 130 students though? That is absolutely laughable considering the numbers in every single apartment complex in our town. Again, I ask the question of you and anyone else who will answer, Do you think that the BOE believes that there will be an additional 130 students coming from Avalon Bay? The answer is a resounding NO if you are being honest about it, which of course, is questionable based on the rep record here in the last two years. You would have us believe that 40, 70 extra students is a reality, but that is only because you want to win an election, it does NOT reflect reality Judy.
PCB Social Media Arts October 24, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Water fall village and the other cited apartment complex in Bloomingdale 265 Units = 15 Students to our district Avalon Bay's 174 units = 130 Students? Really? We are supposed to buy this malarky from people like Judy Caputo? Which do you believe people? The BOE or Judy and Joanne and all their years of educational experience? Can we please apply common sense to these proceedings?
Jim DeGraw October 24, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Dick Duhaime lost all sense of credibility last night when he attacked the Fire Department for no apparent reason. He forgets or doesn't have a clue, that unlike other services in town, to become a member you must be 18 and a resident of Bloomingdale. Members of the Fire Department have a vested interested in this town. They own property, pay taxes and vote. He attacked over 40 fellow residents as well as their families for no reason. Talk about smoke and mirrors, Duhaime, who is a career politicain, had to try to protect Pituch somehow because she can't protect herself. She has no current plan nor has she any future plans that could help this town.
Krikor Etmekjian October 24, 2012 at 08:53 PM
The objections to PILOT are not only baseless but the Republican majority is dismissing the benefits as nonexistent with exaggerated claims that they cannot substantiate. Until last night I never would have expected seeing an attorney publicly refute the legal interpretations that were attributed to him on numerous occasions by members of the council majority to support their position. We have the business and legal professionals of the borough backing the legality and necessity of the PILOT program for Bloomingdales survival and the majorities’ answer is we can cut costs when they have been the majority for quite some time and done none of that. I was quite unnerved with Ted Ehrenburgs stark assessment of the business realities we face unless we do something to bring in revenue. The majority is unwilling to accept the win-win scenario PILOT offers us and not come up with an alternate plan. We can debate it to no avail but the majority is not going to budge on PILOT and we need to do what I had advocated in open session yesterday. We have to make the choice at the ballots on November 6th by voting Democratic and let the new majority pass PILOT in January and start working on solutions rather than reject things out of hand regardless.
PCB Social Media Arts October 24, 2012 at 09:26 PM
I tend to agree. It is obvious that they are not gong to change their minds. It is their Alamo so to speak. There really is one place where they cannot choose to ignore us, and that would be at the polls. Good point! I want to thank the council members that have done everything that they possibly can do to advance our town and stabilize taxes. Thank you for having a plan and thank you for fighting for us to get it implemented. I want to thank the Mayor that continues to bring ideas forth for the better.
Doug Van Dyk October 24, 2012 at 11:40 PM
one way or another the kids will either be there .they wont be covered by the pilot or regular taxes. you forget the fact that the school is about 60 to 70 student below enrollment.give us another option...]
NJ Steel October 25, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Ray Yazdi is a clown in the Barnum and Bailey Circus!
PCB Social Media Arts October 25, 2012 at 03:54 AM
That is indeed a difficult part time gig to get. Good for him. Im never against anyone making a little extra money.
Ann October 25, 2012 at 12:21 PM
I would ignore comments like those from NJ Steel that anonymously hurl insults and focus on kjnown facts instead: Treetop and Waterfall Village combined = 265 units= 15 students Avalon's 174 LUXURY units are projected to = 12-15 students Forget the nonsense being offered by Pituch and her puppeteers DuHaime, Huntley and Caputo. They are scare tactics used to control power and aimed at those who aren't paying attention. PILOT has approval of BOE, the attorney and the Republican-appointed auditor.
Andy October 25, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Kinnelon is ranked #5
Lois Wapelhorst October 25, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I am amazed at how one sided this article is. I was at this meeting and listened to every discussion. Why is there no mention of the fact that mrs pituch has refused to answer to the taxpayers as to why she voted no. And no mention of when I asked her why I should vote for her she had no answer.does anyone care that mr duhaimme handed mrs pituch her prepared statement regarding her vote during the break. I was sitting right in front of him and saw the paper. I just wish that All of the facts would be presented rather than a tainted spin
paul bastante October 25, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Yup, exactly. I was being sarcastic to NJ Steeel. Ann you right on!
paul bastante October 25, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Thats kind of like the first meeting pituch ever attended. There was a roll call vote and when it came to her, she leaned over to huntley, and asked her how she should vote for the entire room to hear, Huntely told her, "vote yes" and then she recorded her yes vote. This woman cannot speak for herself, she is a puppet. A vote for Pituch in this election boils down to a vote for Huntley, caputo and duheime.
Ann October 25, 2012 at 05:19 PM
That's it in a nutshell. If you want more Huntley, then go for Pituch. You'll be very happy. But your town will stay the same while all around us improve. Whether you like someone's personality or not, belong to one party or not, think someone is a clown or not, aren't you still mostly concerned with your town? How about the value of your home? Take a look around you at other towns. Then vote Dellaripa and Sondermeyer. It's basically our last chance. Your town is more important than your party.


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