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GOP Members Walk Out Of Bloomingdale Meeting

Residents call their actions during discussion of PILOT program a 'disgrace' and 'irresponsible.'

Three of the Bloomingdale Council's Republican members walked out of Tuesday night's borough council meeting during discussion on the proposed AvalonBay Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program.

"What happened here tonight is disgraceful. We're no longer coherent," said resident and Planning Board Member Ed Simoni, who was observing from the audience.

An ordinance to approve the PILOT program was rejected by the council last month, including by Democrat Councilman Ray Yazdi. Yazdi 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.

The PILOT program would give the developer of a luxury apartment complex on Union Avenue, AvalonBay, 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. Yazdi and Mayor Jonathan 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.

"We're not doing this to give the developer a break. We're doing this to pay off debt," Yazdi said Tuesday.

Yazdi has presented projected revenue estimates and details of the program to the public at the past several meetings, though Republican council members and some members of the public have said they do not believe his numbers or have faith that the borough will benefit from the program. Yazdi has said his numbers are the same as those of the borough auditor, who initially told council members about the PILOT program as one option for bringing in revenue.

Yazdi presented the program to the public once again Tuesday night and specifically asked Councilwoman Linda Shortman if she would reconsider her vote against the ordinance. He challenged Shortman to explain to the public why she voted against the PILOT program.

"I don't see this as helping our taxes," she said.

After asking several more questions about Shortman's understanding of the program, Councilwoman Jo-Ann Pituch and Councilman Mark Conklin gathered their things and encouraged Shortman to leave the meeting with them. Councilman Glenn Schiffman was absent from the meeting.

As a result, the council was no longer able to meet, as not enough members were present. Instead, the mayor encouraged members of the public to stay and have an informal discussion on any topic, including those that were not able to be discussed on the evening's agenda.

Several members of the public were upset about the actions that took place.

"I think people leaving the meeting is irresponsible," resident Carolyn Bross said.

Resident Lorraine Weinbrock was also displeased with the events that occurred at the meeting, but not by the council members walking out as much as what she called Yazdi "badgering" Shortman. Still, several members of the public said the council members who voted against the PILOT program should be accountable for answering questions about their votes.

"If you're going to sit up there on the dais, you should be able to answer why you're voting a certain way," resident Dawn Hudson said.

Residents were not the only ones surprised by what transpired.

"I just can't believe what goes on here," Borough Administrator Ted Ehrenburg said.

Ehrenburg noted that because several council members left the meeting, approval items, such as bills, were not able to be taken care of.

"It's hard for me to keep my head up and tell these people to come in here and do a good job," he said. "When people tell me that this has nothing to do with politics, I'm sorry."

Ehrenburg said he has asked the council members for a plan of how the borough will bring in revenue if the PILOT program is not approved and is still waiting on answers. He said the borough is in a serious financial crisis.

"In 2013, if something magical does not happen...you're not going to get any services from the borough because there's no money to run this," he said.

When asked by a resident how long it would take for the borough to be bankrupt if things continued the way they are, Dunleavy said the borough would be bankrupt within six years.

"We are bleeding. The borough is in bad financial shape," he said.

Yazdi and Dunleavy said they will continue to bring up the topic of the PILOT program at every meeting until the end of the year to stress how much of a benefit they feel the program is to the borough.

A special meeting will be scheduled so council members can discuss the borough business that was not addressed during Tuesday's meeting, including discussion on the "Nightmare on Bailey Ave." event.

Ann October 10, 2012 at 08:05 PM
The majority is playing a dangerous game. It is dangerous for several reasons: Firstly, they are harming the reputation of the Republican Party in this town. Secondly, they are damaging their own reputations and losing the respect of their neighbors. Thirdly, they may be doing irreparable damage to Bloomingdale and will be blamed for it for many years to come. Is this all worth it just to oppose a Mayor with whom they have some kind of personal history? They are following the lead of a woman who lost an election in this town by a healthy amount. They did not learn from history but instead continue to follow the angry example she sets before them. It's almost tragic on so many levels.
Joanne October 10, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Once upon a time there was a TOP groundswell in Bloomingdale in order to save our town from the disaster of a garbage disposal facility. Town Over Party worked TOGETHER to confront and solve the threat. Today the danger is lack of will. Will all the council members.....elected by their constituents... agree that it's Bloomingdale's future that is in jeopardy? Please, folks, consider the outcome of your actions.
Regina October 10, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Jon, My suggestion for this would be : Since you plan on bringing up the PILOT program at every meeting from now until the end of the year you may want to put the PILOT program at the end of the agenda each meeting so that what needs to be taken care of can be :)
Jon Dunleavy October 10, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Regina, as you can see from post I put on the Forum, this is how I will most likely proceed. There are so many important business matters that must be resolved.I cannot risk the Majority walking out again and having to end the meeting due to a lack of a quorum. Though public comment will be the first agenda item as this portion of the meeting never happened. I am sure the public will ask similar questions of the governing body that Ray and I were attempting to ask last night. I just hope the majority does not walk again. The new meeting date is Monday 10/15 at 7pm. I hope everyone can attend.
Karen Dellaripa October 10, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I am both saddened and disgusted by the behavior of the Majority at the meeting last night. If you CHOOSE to serve in a public position, ELECTED by your peers, to REPRESENT them, you are ACCOUNTABLE to them for every decision that you make, for every vote that you cast. You peers have the right to ask you to explain your reasons for your decisions - whether you are a democrat or a republican should have no bearing in a town of our size. EVERYONE should work together for the betterment of Bloomingdale! TOWN OVER PARTY as Joanne said above. There is no room for personal vendettas at this level of government. We must do what is best for our town, and for our townspeople! I am truly ashamed of these people. What a truly unprofessional way to behave!
Linda October 10, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Kevin, the council listened to the perceived benefits time and time again. I am surprised that you feel the need to constantly attack me, you do not even know me. I was told last year that it was my fault that the council did not get along, I am no longer on the council and it is worse. The problem as I see it is that Jon has to learn to accept that the Borough is not a dictatorship. People voted how they deemed appropriate. This does not give him or Ray the right to harrass and badger them til they get their way. BTW I do not believe he PILOT is going to give us the tax relief that Ray and Jon are touting. Does that make me wrong, I do not think so, I am adult enough to agree to disagree. I do not believe having only a 2% increase is sufficient since usually our tax increases are higher, because of items outside of the cap. Because the plan was constructed with this 2% increase we will lose.
Bloomingdale Resident October 11, 2012 at 04:06 PM
I wasn't at the meeting, but just by reading these comments, I can see how she maybe have felt like she was being badged. With that said, I don't think leaving was the correct action. Sometimes we just get caught up in the moment. She should have had a response to their questions on this issue. The response I would have given is it can make a bad presadent in the future. If we allow them not to have to pay school taxes, what will the next developer want. And every time there is a school budget up for vote, all the dems want it passed. Now you are saying we don't need his money for the school system. It just doesn't make sense to me. Everyone who owns property in B'dale has to pay school taxes. They should not be exempt. If we want to pay down our debt, we need to get those stores on Main Street filled, stop foolish spending, (like buying a building for the police on Union Ave. and never using it), losing the taxes from that building.
Jo October 11, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Bloomingdale Resident, perfection is the enemy of improvement. Just because there are better/other ways to stabilize taxes (full storefronts, running leaner) that haven't happened isn't a valid to turn your nose up at an opportunity to make positive inroads into a difficult situation. Doing this doesn't stop us from trying to fill up Main St, doesn't stop us from trying to cut spending. Our taxes are out of control and we need to do all of the above, not begrudge an opportunity because there are other ways we like better. We need to do all of them.
Carolyn October 11, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Dear "Bloomingdale Resident". Since you weren't at the meeting, you may want to check out the video on YouTube. You will be able to see that the people asking questions were polite and patient. Much of the yelling was done by two people in the audience who are personal friends of Ms. Shortman. She and the others need to answer the public. They were elected to serve the public. If you want to see a town (among the many) that has benefited by PILOT, go and look at South Orange. I used to live in the next town over. S. Orange was pretty much like Bloomingdale. Now it has 10 PILOT programs and is booming-- full of restaurants and charming shops as well as a Performing Arts Center. We could be that town if we could attract anyone here. Think about it. This is really our last chance. If we turn this down, and just cut measly services, nobody will want to come here....ever! Your property values will go down, your taxes will go up and your children will have to pay down the debt. Is that what you really want? I doubt it. Everybody should forget about political parties. That has no meaning in a small town. Town above party! I would give Dellaripa and Sondermeyer a chance.
Jon Dunleavy October 11, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Bloomingdale Resident, I just want to clarify some the issues. This PILOT is not setting a bad precedent. First of all any property to be considered for a PILOT must be in a redevelopment area. My plan is to make Union Ave from Van Dam to the Horse farm and all of Main St a redevelopment area. Not all potential developer will get a PILOT as it is driven by the Borough. So if a PILOT does not make financial sense on a future development then the Borough would not proceed. The Avalon Bay PILOT actually is setting a great Precedent based on the fact it is 17% of gross revenue on the project . Most PILOT are based on 10%. So the standard would be set by the Avalon Bay Pilot but again any future PILOTs would only be done if it makes sense. Regarding the schools, our enrollment is at an all time low. The predicted number of student wich is 12 from this project will not increase the cost of education. Our schools could handle up to 100 new students without increase the cost of education. Ironically adding a modest number of students will lower our overall cost to educate. But if the need was to arise that Avalon Bay did increase the cost of eduation, then the Borough can cover that cost with PILOT revenue so Avalon Bay is paying their fair share. Furthermore the Board of Education has a 2% cap on their budget. Also in case you didnt know, by State Law our residents will never again vote on a school budget if the budget is within the 2 % cap.
Jon Dunleavy October 11, 2012 at 09:33 PM
continuation of response to Bloomingdale resident: The PILOT is the catalyst for future growth including Main St. My goal is give incentive to desirable developers to invest in our Main St. Not only filling the vacancies but redeveloping the entire areas. For the record, although I do not like seeing the vacancies, the building owners are still paying taxes. So the Borough is NOT losing tax dollars due to vacancies. Obviously the goal is to fill the vacancies so our taxpaying landlords can survive and I am please to see that a few new stores will be opening in the very near future. And if the PILOT is approved and the redevelopment areas expanded our Main Street will certainly see a rebirth.
Jawsman October 12, 2012 at 10:32 AM
Kevin I appreciate your opinion but can assure you that I am not a lying Democrat. In fact you are welcome to check the history and you will see that this is the first time I have ever posted a reply to the Patch. I am simply a concerned citizen of this town and I am a republican. There are people reading this post who know exactly who I am as I am a participating member of the Triboro Baseball League. In fact some of the people know that I don't necesssarily agree with Mayor Dunleavy or his attitude at times either. However in this case, the facts are clear that only one side of an arguement have presented their facts and figures regarding PILOT for the town to consider. The Council Republicans have left us all high and dry. Which is why I say again.... Share your reasoningas to why you say no! We are listening and will stand behind you if a logical and factual explanation is given as to why NOT to agree to the PILOT program. O'wise we're back to the same old "just because" logic of making decisions which has led NJ down this dark road in the past. NO MORE FOLLOW THE IDIOT LEADER!
Jawsman October 12, 2012 at 10:44 AM
One comment I'd lke to leave regarding the idea of redevelopement of main street. I know this may have been said but I am happy that someone has turned their attention to REALLY cleaning up main street. Not just by replacing stupid side walks and lights either. And I'd love to get the mayor to turn his attention to the decrepid looking apartments that EVERYONE sees first when they come into our town. Right across the street from the Gulf station where they sit on the so called "front lawn" next to their unkept appartment, at their ramshackle table next to the shopping carts that they stole from down the street at the Foodworld while drinking beer! What a DISGRACE!!!! Or the abandoned pharmacy which the town has to upkeep across from 7-eleven. Or the several other crappy looking buildings who's landlords receive no incentives to upkeep (or receive penalties for neglect either)! Our town's main street has no curb appeal at all for perspective home buyers. So it's about time someone took sight on what's really important.
Carolyn October 12, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Agreed, Jawsman. But I think if you check out the history of the abandoned pharmacy you'll learn that our various leaders have tried for years to do something about it, but the owner is implacable. My understanding is that she will NOT sell it. It isn't always as easy as it looks from the outside, is it. There once was a large beautification committee that met for several years to try to improve the downtown. There was a lot of resistance on the part of business owners and no money. What a combination! All they were able to accomplish was to get the signs installed at all the entrances to our town. Believe it or not, we never had these before they were designed by Brad MacKenn! Perhaps, eventually, the PILOT program will help by bringing some money in! One can only hope!
Jon Dunleavy October 12, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Jawsman. I completely agree with your assessment. This is why the redevelopment area needs to be adopted to revitalize our Main St. Desirable investors will not come to Bloomingdale without incentive due to our tax rate. If investors see the Borough is committed to redevelopment and Pilot incentives to stablize the tax rate and pay down our debt, than our image will change and growth will be a reality. This will also allow for tax incentive to current building owners to make capital improvements, such as something as simple as a facade upgrade. In many towns to entice such improvements tax abatements are giving on capital improvement for 5 years as an example. The town benefits from the beautification of the downtown and the business owner benefits from relief both on property and income tax for making a capital improvement to ones business. One other concept I want to bring to the table is a Business Improvement District (BID). Yes the building owners pay an annual assessment which then allows building owners and tenants to make facade improvements by accessing grants via the BID. Pompton Lakes has a BID and you can see the result from all the recent facade improvements occurring in their downtown on Wanaque Ave. In Pompton Lakes the business owners were not initially happy with the BID but now that the rewards are being realized the concept has full support on the town and business community.
Jon Dunleavy October 12, 2012 at 02:37 PM
continuation of post below----The town needs to take a proactive approach to entice this development. We need to access resources and market the Borough so this growth will come. With the development on Union Ave and potential PILOTS as I still have hope, what I state in this post will become a reality. Regarding the current conditions of Main St, I completely agree with your assessment as well. What is frustrating to me is just because a building looks like crap, the Borough cannot enforce a building owner to make it nicer unless it is violating a property maintanence code. In many case there are no such violation, some properties are just unsightly. The plan I stated above can address these unsightly conditions. When there is code violation it is dealt with immediately. One condition that has not helped is due to the economy Gov. Christie extended open permits through 2014. So the town cannot force someone who may have partially sided a building for example if they have an open permit, until at least 2014. I am not against what the Governor has done as the economic time may have called for it but it does tie the hands of our local code enforcement officers. I just hope the 2014 deadline is not extended so that some of this blight can be cleaned up. Regarding the issue you refer to on Main St. of people drinking and barbecuing on their front lawn. This is not a code violation but the landlord was spoken to and the matter as been resolved.
Bloomingdale Resident October 12, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Mr. Mayor. Thank you for your explaination and I understand everything you said. It does make sense but, it bothers me that they don't have to pay school taxes. To me, it's just a matter of being fair to the other tax payers. You said it's only a matter of appox. 12 new students. That's a lot. I have no kids that go to the public school as they are grown, and I pay school taxes. Can you understand my side? But thank you for your time explaining your side. I do have one more issue tho. Why keep bring this up at council meetings? The majority voted it down and it was Yadzi's idea to also vote it down so it can be brought up again, correct? So why not just wait until November and if the democrates get the majority, then you can change the vote. Why frustrate the now majority making it seem like their vote really doesn't matter. And also frustrating the towns people who take time out of their night to attend the meeting. B/c of them leaving you didn't even get to talk about other issues that you wanted to address. Why add fuel to the fire? Just wait till Nov. and go from there. Just my opinion. I still think buying a building for the police which stands empty on Union Ave. was a waste of money. What do you think?
Patty Haag October 12, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I could not agree more.....I cannot wait to move out of Bloomingdale.....it is absolutely not acceptable to vote against PILOT because "I don't see this as helping our taxes". You have to explain WHY it will not help taxes and what the potential problems can be and work around them! No matter what transpires, walking out of a council meeting is childish and proof that they do not deserve the seats. I will be the first one at the votin booth!
Jon Dunleavy October 12, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Bloomingdale Resident, I completely understand your issue with AB not paying school tax. 12 children added to our schools will not increase the cost of education. If there is proven cost then the PILOT money will be used to offset this cost so AB is paying their fair share. The BOE has a 2% cap so under normal taxes from AB the school board can only use this new AB revenue as tax relief as it my intention with the PILOT. The $321000 that the BOE would received offsetting their $19,000,000 budget will not return the tax payers as much relief as the Borough using this same revenue over our $10,000,000 budget. The relief from the PILOT by stablizing taxes and paying down our debt will be a greater return then under normal taxation. One other factor that I dont think is talked about enough is that under the PILOT we will not have to provide garbage services or snow removal for AB for 30 years. My plan is to then sell this service back to AB as an additional revenue stream. This is such a great value that will also assist in controlling taxes. My intention is not to add fuel to the fire. It is too important of an issue to let go and my hopes are that with continued education that possible one council majority member will see the benefits and change their vote. I never thought they would leave during a meeting, so my plan is from now on to do the business of the Borough and discuss PILOT later so if they leave it doesnt effect regular business.
Jon Dunleavy October 12, 2012 at 05:37 PM
con.t response to Bloomingale Resident. I was not on the council when the building on Union Ave was purchased for a police station. Though if you have ever been to our police station then you would agree we need a new facility. Our current facility is embarassing. My plan would be to either put it back on the tax rolls by selling it as part of our Union Ave Redevelopment plan or sell the house that our construction department currently uses, then use this revenue to renovate the new police station. Then move the police into the new building and our construction department into the current police station inside Borough Hall. This way the current construction building would be back on the tax rolls.
Ann October 12, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Voters, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, it looks as if the Mayor has ideas for how to move this town forward. The last two years, under Majority control, has not succeeded in producing and new ideas but has cost us more money for professionals. I say, we all give this idea a chance. I sincerely hope that one of the Republican majority on the council will look deeply inward, make an effort to understand what's offered, give up on personal angers for the sake of the town and vote "yes". Give it a try, please, because we haven't many choices. If not, then the only pathway is for the voters to make the change.
paul bastante October 13, 2012 at 07:56 PM
I saw the meeting in question on video. One superficial look is all you need to see before absolutely knowing that it was a premeditated move by the majority and definitely not warranted. There was no badgering. There was no bullying at all. Just some debate. From the very beginning, you can see pituch and shortman planning their escape, gathering their things and waiting for a moment when it might be construed as the correct thing to do, except, it was never the correct thing to do. And Linda, the landslide loser, claps and carries on like her child is recieving the noble piece prize, she is sooo proud. But dont let them tell you that anyone was bullied or badgered, that would be a total LIE!
paul bastante October 13, 2012 at 08:00 PM
And further, it has huntley's grimy MO all over it. You can tell that they all discussed this plan before hatching it. Coming to meetings without any intention of completing the business of the town. I urge anyone of sound mind to watch the video and decide for yourself. It's all right there for all to see. Completely planned before hand by the majority.
Ann October 15, 2012 at 01:09 PM
I understand why some people did not want a video to be made and fought it. When you watch (and I hope you will) the first badgering and yelling you will see done is by Linda Huntley. Then she storms off and the woman next to her continues the shouting and badgering. Often (but not on this video) Mr. Caputo comes to the front yelling. There was only one person on the Huntley side who did not yell. Throughout, the Mayor and the head of the Budget Committee stay cool and polite, though you can see their exasperation. The majority is an angry group. That makes any discussion almost impossible. There's no choice but to take them out of office., since they can't work across the aisle whatsoever.
Gary October 15, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Ann, sorry but you are wrong. First of all Caputo was not even there, second Yazdi attacked Huntley when she tried to ask him questions and kept talking over her. You will see what you want, and obviously you want to see the mayor and yazdi cool and polite, but that is definitely not the case.
Gary October 15, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Paul, you have an inordinate amount of attacks on Linda, it borders on,. an illness. And for you to say no one was bagderer or bullied, well that is purely wrong. Too bad you do not have a grip on reality..
Gary October 15, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Again Paul, to think it was planned to walk out of a meeting, where is your reality!!!???
Ann October 15, 2012 at 05:12 PM
You did not read carefully. I said "Often (but not on this video)" And, secondly, it doesn't much matter what you or I see. We know how we will vote. What really matters is what the voters out there--the people who never attend meetings--will see. I suspect they'll form their own judgments without our help!
wendy October 15, 2012 at 09:26 PM
There is allot to say, and when this happens at the bloomingdale board of education the patch wouldn't take notice and when anything is said it gets rejected ,so maybe the town should call more media for coverage and lets get rid of the OLD WOOD.Once and for all ,I am sure when more people become aware of all this out of date behaviour the state dept will come , and if that doesn't work the federal goverment would love to add this bologna to the abuse that has already been documented in this tiny little town .
Ariana Cohn-Sheehan (Editor) October 18, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Hi Wendy, The town doesn't call us for coverage (we decide what to cover) and I'm at most of the BOE meetings myself, but if I missed something you think I should know about, feel free to email me at ariana.cohn-sheehan@patch.com

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