Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Public Speaks at Town Hall Meeting on Tax Abatement Proposal

Dear Friends,

I want to thank you all (attendance count: 54) for coming out on a humid and gray Thursday evening to share your thoughts on the proposed residential tax abatement ordinance at the public town hall meeting I sponsored. The purpose of this forum, which was attended by residents from all four wards of our city, was to provide you with an opportunity to express your views, pro or con, on the abatement proposed by the Robinson-Briggs administration for the 63 condominiums on East Front Street. Those of you in attendance held some very strong views on this controversial issue; judging from your comments (both spoken and written), it would be safe to say that the vast majority of Plainfielders are united in their opposition to residential tax abatements. I will be forwarding the list of the many questions raised at the forum to the mayor and her staff to give them an opportunity to provide answers to all questions prior to any further action on the proposed abatement. I will also be providing the list of questions to my colleagues so that they will be fully aware of their constituents' concerns. It is important that the city council, as the governing body of Plainfield, hear your feedback on the issues affecting our city, so I am glad that so many of you were able to attend.

In the spirit of transparency and ethical leadership in government, I have posted the video documentation of the meeting on YouTube for the widest dissemination possible.I will also find out when the video can be shown on Plainfield's public access channel on Comcast of Plainfield (PCTV-74) and will let you know the specific air dates. The first segment (of 6 episodes) is posted below, and I have included the links to the others. Additional questions were asked after the tape stopped rolling. Some of these questions were asked of the administration, so I am hopeful that they will have some answers for all of us at the council meeting.
There is no reason, in my opinion, to give this proposal a second reading without these and other questions being answered to the full satisfaction of the governing body. I strongly urge you all to come to the Monday, August 17 meeting at the Municipal Court (Watchung Avenue and Fourth Street) at 8:00 pm to voice your opinion on this proposed ordinance.

--What happens if the building goes into foreclosure?
--Shouldn't the deed restrictions outlined in the original agreement prevent the units from being turned into rentals without prior city council approval?
--Can the senior citizens and veterans sections of the building open in September, as promised, even if all the units are not sold?
--I keep hearing that the project cannot be allowed to "fail." What is the definition of failure with regard to this project? Also, how do you define success?
--How many of the units have contracts and when are they supposed to close?
--How many of the units have closed as of today (Thursday, August 13, 2009)?
--Is the word "abatement" really just a substitution of the word "bailout," meaning the developer is seeking help from the city?
--When the seniors move into the new center, how much of the rent we pay for the old senior center will be put back into the city budget?
--Given the stalled projects that this developer has in Rahway and elsewhere, what assurances do we have that he won't abandon the project?
--Can the administration and the city council give an update on the financial "health" of this particular developer, given his other projects and in light of the Connolly bankruptcy?
--Will the city order an independent appraisal of the units to determine their true worth in the current market?
--What can the city do to make the surrounding area more attractive, i.e., controlling the loitering near the Ben Franklin Liquor Store?

In the coming days, I will be posting the impact of the tax abatement on the average homeowner. Finally, I would like to thank the elected officials and the residents who attended the forum, as well as the many volunteers (Dorothy, Carmencita, Will, Carol, Dan, Rebecca) who assisted me in putting it together.

I wanted to post the video as quickly as possible, so the slight problem with the sync (the audio lags) will be corrected within the next day or so.

Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6

Again, I thank you all for coming out to this town meeting, and I look forward to the next one. I will let you know the date as soon as it is confirmed.



P.S. There was an unrelated question about the $10.00 garage sale permit fee charged by the city, and a statement that the city hall library is simply to small for the agenda meetings, and that the meetings go on too long. A few residents complained about the changes to the meeting schedule, favoring a return to the old schedule of 2 agenda sessions and 2 public meetings per month.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the forum. As a member of the public I appreciate it. Among the questions you posted were some that I had especially about when the seniors can finally get into the building. The mayor said it would be in September and she didn't say anything about certificates of occupying but that September would be the date. Please, please get this question answered.

Maria Pellum, Plainfield Resident said...

Thanks for the information and for the YouTube links! As someone who can't attend meetings right now this is the closest I have seen to transparency and improved constituent service, thanks!

I have just couple of questions that I would appreciate being considered for answers:

What will the annual cost for the Senior Center be?

And can it be explain how the tax abatement is being offered to the developer, but yet is to benefit individual buyers, but yet, it has been said that tax abatement can not be offered to individual property owners?

Adrian Mapp said...

To Anonymous at 9:07 am: I have forwarded the entire list of questions asked to Marc DaShield, the city administrator, and I will follow up with him to make sure that your question about the C of O is clarified.

Maria: You're welcome. I am glad that you were able to view the meeting. I will be recording every public town meeting, as I know how busy everyone is and how difficult it is for some to attend. Your questions are among those forwarded to Marc, so we should have answers rather quickly. I will post the answers as soon as I receive them.

Regards, Adrian

Anonymous said...

It's now been 3 weeks since you sent Mr. Dashield the questions from the forum. Any answers yet, or is it just some more "I'll get back to you"???????????