Updated March 6, 2015: The story has been amended to note that only the improvements to the property are abated. The property continues to pay land taxes throughout the 30-year life of the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes).
The Maplewood Township Committee voted to introduce an ordinance at its meeting on March 3 to execute of a financial agreement with the developer of the former PSE&G site at Boyden and Springfield avenues, granting a 30-year payment in lieu of taxes — or PILOT.
The ordinance will be on second reading and final approval at the TC’s March 17 meeting.
According to the financial agreement, which can be found as exhibit A on the March 3 agenda packet, the developer (as the legal entity Maplewood Urban Renewal LLC) will pay the Township 10 percent of Annual Gross Revenue — or AGR — for the first 15 years of the PILOT. The payments then escalate to the greater of 10% of AGR or 20% of the “the amount of taxes otherwise due on the property and the improvements” from year 15 to year 21. After 21 years, that escalates to the greater of 10% AGR or 4o% of the amount of taxes otherwise due. After 27 years, it’s the greater of 10% AGR or 60% of taxes otherwise due. After 29 years, it’s the greater of 10% AGR or 80% of taxes otherwise due.
The Township must remit 5% of this payment to Essex County each year. No payments go to the South Orange-Maplewood School District.
Meanwhile, the property owner continues to pay land taxes on the property. After 30 years, the improvements to the property go back on the tax rolls.
According to the financial agreement, in 2014, the property generated $311,399.50 in real property taxes to all government entities (the township, the county and the school district). The agreement projects that the property will generate $616,094 in revenue for the township in the first year of the execution of the agreement “prior to the application of the land tax credit.”
Maplewood Urban Renewal LLC — an entity formed by Avalon Bay Communities — will be building a 235-unit rental housing project on the site including 353 parking spaces and other site improvements. Six of the units will be affordable housing.
As part of the consent agenda, the TC also voted to extend the period of negotiations with Maplewood Urban Renewal through May 7, 2015.
At past meetings, members of the public expressed concerns about Avalon Bay related to construction safety, fire safety, property management and hiring practices — particularly in light of the recent fire at an Avalon Bay property in Edgewater. In response to concerns, Avalon Bay announced in February that it would voluntarily “install more sprinklers throughout the proposed buildings, including in the attics and closets and between ceilings and floors” and “also will install masonry firewalls, which aren’t currently required by state law for high density, wood-frame buildings” at the Maplewood project and another project in Princeton.
Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca addressed concerns with the following statement to The Village Green on February 7: “With any multi-family dwelling under consideration in Maplewood, including the post office site, PSE&G site and Maplewood Commons, we all have discussions with the developers about fire safety. We intend to monitor any regulatory changes to state fire codes and add our input. Lastly, our Code Enforcement Committee will discuss fire and building safety issues and propose any local or state changes we think make sense.”
At the March 3 TC meeting, Eric Shorter of the Maplewood Environmental Advisory Committee reiterated concerns. While saying that “it behooves us to look forward to great things happening on that site and the further development of the SA corridor,” Shorter said, “Without rocking the boat, I want to put it on the record that I urge the TC to very closely look at Avalon Bay as a developer. I’ve seen the level of concerns. I’ve seen the list of violations. I’m concerned as a citizen. I’m concerned as a member of the township and I just want to make sure that we do our best possible diligence with regards to the PSE&G site.”
Later in the meeting, Deputy Mayor Kathleen Leventhal reported that the Environmental Advisory Committee was also concerned about LEED certification for the PSE&G development, as well as the post office site in Maplewood Village. “The concern is that we are not going high enough in terms of what we are asking for,” said Leventhal. “They are really not putting much green into the buildings themselves. If there’s anyway in our process to emphaisize what the Green Team and the Advisory Committee is advising, we need to do that.”