Friday, July 24, 2009

A Resounding "No!" to Tax Abatement on Monarch Condominium Project

The issue of tax abatement, in the past few days, has been raging like a wild fire out of control, and Plainfield’s elected officials have been challenged to put it out. I’ll take this opportunity to state my position on the concept of five-year tax abatements, in general, and the tax abatement pertaining to the 63 condos in particular.

During the council agenda fixing session of July 17th and the regular meeting of July 20th, I explained at great length my opposition to the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) application for 1272 Park Avenue, as well as my issues with the abatement application for the 63 condos on East Front Street.

In the case of 1272 Park Avenue, it is my position that the owner has enjoyed the benefit of a PILOT incentive for the past 37 years; therefore, it is now time for Plainfield to benefit from a full tax assessment on that property. The owner(s) of 1272 Park Avenue should not be allowed to profit on the backs of our fixed-income seniors and other struggling tax payers; in addition, refinancing through the NJHFA should not be used as a vehicle to guarantee lucrative profits in perpetuity.

The PILOT on 1272 Park Avenue should end and the City should collect full taxes based on the property’s assessed value. Mine was the only "NO" vote on this agenda item at the July 20th meeting.

As for the East Front Street condominium project, I told my colleagues and the public in attendance on Monday that I felt the project was a horrible one from the very beginning. It was given life by a council that was too weak to do the right thing, too concerned about self-preservation, and too eager and willing to abandon Mayor Al McWilliams in the wake of his 2005 election primary loss.

As a result, instead of moving ahead with an investment in a new senior center with commercial space that would be a guaranteed revenue stream for the City, as Al and his team had begun with a bonding process, council members at the time fell for the misguided notion that the seniors would get a center for "free" from a developer. Thus, it traded a senior center and debt service that would have been covered by a commercial revenue stream for what is now known as "The Monarch at Plainfield," with its 63 condos and all of the issues (or additional burdens) this project will bring, including additional costs for city services and education, which would be greatly exacerbated if the developer were to be allowed to have this abatement at the Plainfield taxpayers' expense.

Plainfield was let down by the previous council, which gave away prime parcels of real estate for $1 and allowed the Monarch to happen. Knowing the work that went into tearing down the properties that once stood there, and the time, costs, and effort that went into assembling the parcels of land, I felt an incredible feeling of betrayal for our seniors and for the City. It was for all of these reasons that I expressed some very strong sentiments at the last two council meetings regarding the request for abatement by the developer.

Now, I must make a confession: in spite of my very vocal opposition to this proposal, which is on the record, I fell for this past week's bait and switch hysteria that the condos could become rentals without the abatement. This was a mistake--a momentary lack in judgment that prevented me from seeing the request for what it really is--an attempt to preserve the profit margin of the developer at the expense of Plainfield’s tax payers. My hesitating "YES" vote should have been a resounding "NO!"

However, my first vote not withstanding, I knew at the time that I would have a second opportunity to make it right. Now that the public has weighed in on this firestorm, I am convinced that what I communicated to another blogger (and to numerous other residents who have contacted me over the past few days) is the right thing for me to do. That is, I will be casting a resounding "NO" vote on the second reading of the ordinance.

I know that I may face some tough critics, and I accept your criticism with humility--my feeling, though, is that a blunder corrected quickly is better than a mistake preserved with all its negative impact on Plainfield's tax base and taxpayers for years to come. Mea culpa! I said when I was elected onto the council last year that I wanted you to hold me accountable. I said I would listen to you, and I thank you for your thoughtful and passionate feedback on this issue. It is my hope that my council colleagues, too, will see this ordinance for what it is and vote "NO" as well.

P.S. In my next post, I will provide you with the true tax abatement numbers and the 5-year impact on Plainfield, meaning on you and me.

Regards, Adrian


Anonymous said...

Thanks Adrian for clarifying your position. It is clear that at times one might fall for the "hysteria", as you said it, and go along with "peer pressure". It's amazing how one can't never be to old for "peer pressure".

I hope that the message we have sent to all elected officials is that they can't continue to ignore residents' needs. Not anymore.

Maria Pellum

Anonymous said...

You are flapping in the wind Mapp.

Anonymous said...

Thank You, Mr. Mapp!

It is good to see that someone is listening!


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you changed your position Mr. Mapp It's not an easy thing to say your wrong. The mayor has never admitted any of her bad ideas but I'm glad you admitted that this is a mistake. I was concerned about the idea of these condos turning into more rentals too. But who says that will happen? I think the abatements should be considered maybe if it is business development just to encourage a large business to relocate here, because they would bring some jobs and revenues and help the commercial tax base. But to give a tax break to a developer who got the land for $1? That's ridiculous. If he wants to move the condo units faster, HE (not the city!) can lower the price, offer free cable and Internet for a year, help with closing costs or any number of teases to get them sold. Thats the kind of thing that other owners do. How much profit does he stand to make? He should take a little less, since he got the land for $1. I am glad you came to your senses about this.

Anonymous said...

To 6:41AM who states Mapp is "flapping in the wind".

You Anonymous are flapping to the wind of "Jerry says". I guarantee Jerry Green has his cronies lined up to purchase those condos. -C

Anonymous said...

I think that what is very important for this council to keep in mind is that this administration works on fear and hysteria.

So what if this forcloses? Will it be the first or last time that a foreclosure happens in this city? Should we pay for a hasty decision because of fear?

So, we sell the Monarch property for $1 to a developer and give tax refunds for the new residents all while PAYING for operating costs, for a senior center, that is still not opened. And JG said that the city would get $400K in city property taxes. Can you tell me what is wrong with these people who ekkp voting this administration in office?

DO NOT be held hostage by an inept administration, city council. Hasty decisions never result in wise decisions.

Remember a direct train going into NYC IS coming to Plainfield. We will do well inspite of inept leadership.

Rob said...

It is always refreshing to see any elected official stand up and say, "I made a mistake and I am going to rectify it." Not common in politics and MOST certainly not common in Plainfield from the puppet master on down to his puppet. Simply put. Let the building go under, go to the bank whatever it takes. Not your problem, not my problem, and most certainly NOT the taxpayers of Plainfield's problem. Zone it so rentals are not allowed in that area for buildings containing "community centers" imaginative. You would be amazed what will fly in court as long as you make it broad enough. You and the city council have the power to change Plainfield...think outside the box. I have no issue with the land having been given to the developer for $1..look at the waterfront in Jersey City..classic example of what can be down when it's done right. That was a $1 deal as well. LeFrak Realty ended bringing Jersey City into the modern times at HIS expense. They are not building any more land in NJ. Zone tough, Zone harshly, enact and enforce "architectural review" boards as well as maximum square foot allowances for signs on buildings and in windows.. CLEAN PLAINFIELD UP so the next person coming in doesn't say.." These suckers will be glad to get anything ". Sorry to rant..but seriously..Change the zoning in this city so it's more specific, more nit-picky and dictate how buildings, businesses and streetscapes can look downtown and you will be amazed in 20yrs the difference. As I have repeated on MANY blogs..go look at Saratoga Springs looks almost like Plainfield 40yrs it's a jewel in the crown of Upstate NY.