Month: October 2017

A Community Impact Fee: How to Get Developers to Give Back To Our Town

A Community Impact Fee: How to Get Developers to Give Back To Our Town

By Susan Poage & Alvaro Medeiros

Berkeley Heights is in the process of approving several major redevelopment projects. Between agreements with developers to redevelop properties at Kings (New York Mart), Hamilton Avenue (Little FlowerChurch), Berkeley Cinema and the Connell Center, we will see hundreds of new apartment units built in town over the next few years. These projects are, to some degree, forced upon us by our new, legal requirement to build new affordable housing units.

Developers stand to make considerable profit off of these projects, but the overall benefit to our community is limited. If we’re going to approve these agreements, we ought to do everything we can to maximize the benefit to our town – and as of right now, we’re not.  To change that, we’re proposing developers pay a Community Impact Fee so that our community benefits in additional ways from this development. Here’s how it would work:

To enable developers to make a profit off these projects, the Mayor and current Township Council are approving temporary tax breaks for them, called PILOT agreements (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes). If elected to the Council, we would insist that as part of any PILOT agreement, the developer agree to pay what is called a Community Impact Fee. This has been done by other New Jersey towns as a means to ensure the developers give something back to the communities being affected by their projects.

By charging a reasonable rate of $300/unit built, we can generate nearly $200,000 a year in new revenue during the life of the PILOT agreement– none of it from raising taxes or cutting critical services! We propose to use the Community Impact Fee to fully restore and upgrade our sports and recreational fields. Berkeley Heights families have known for years that our sports fields are in very poor shape compared to neighboring towns where our kids compete – theirs are better maintained and have much better amenities, despite the hard work of our Recreation Department and PAL volunteers.

By creating the Community Impact Fee, we will ensure Berkeley Heights has playing fields worthy of our great town. When we say we’re fighting for Change We Can Agree On, this is precisely the kind of new perspective we would bring to the Township Council.

As taxpayers, we’ve invested a great deal to make our community a great place for our families. Isn’t it time our Township Council listened to and invested in our priorities? If you want to improve our playing fields and parks – for our kids, our quality of life, and our future – then we ask for your vote on Tuesday, November 7th. Vote Poage & Medeiros, Column A for Change We Can Agree On!

 

Real Problems need Real Change:  Better Communications/Transparency is Change We Can Agree On!

Real Problems need Real Change: Better Communications/Transparency is Change We Can Agree On!

By SUSAN POAGE and ALVARO MEDEIROS

One of the most important reasons we are running for Township Council is that we need to do a much better job of informing and engaging residents on what is going on in our town. We believe it is our job to go out into the community and meet with residents, informing them and listening to what they have to say; not for you to come to us.

As we’ve gone door-to-door across town in recent months, we’ve found that most residents have heard little or nothing about most of the major actions being taken by the Mayor and Council, including:

  • Making sure residents understand the phasing of the development and what municipal services could be impacted, such as the library downsizing.
  • Communicating major development projects to the entire town when they appear before our planning board, such as the new 7-story apartment complex will be built at the Connell Center.
  • Repaving of our roads is a major complaint; however, the current plan will take 15 years to implement.

Whether or not we agree or disagree with these actions is not the issue; what matters is that town residents deserve to know about them.

We are committed to building on the progress finally being made and doing much more beyond it, including:

  • Fully embracing social media to engage residents and ask for their input, before taking action on important issues.
  • Creating an e-newsletter.
  • Saving money from a print newsletter by having the “Mayor’s Roundtable” done for free.
  • Holding occasional weekend meetings, not just on the Municipal Complex, in order to attract more residents at a more convenient time for them.
  • Ensure we have a township website worthy of the 2010s, which means it must be mobile friendly and enable residents to access information more easily.

You deserve a voice in the future of our town. That’s Change We Can Agree On and it’s why we ask for your vote!  Please join Democrats, Republicans and Independents in voting for Poage & Medeiros, Column A on November 7th!

Bond to the Rescue! Here’s How We Will Fix Our Roads

Bond to the Rescue! Here’s How We Will Fix Our Roads

BY ALVARO MEDEIROS

Easily the most frequent complaint I hear as I go door-to-door to introduce myself to Berkeley Heights residents is that we need to do something about the Berkeley Heights roads. This is especially true when anyone lives near the border of New Providence, where good streets clearly meet the bad ones. And it’s even worse when we see so many of the county and state roads being paved to perfection while our streets continue to crumble.

This has been an ongoing problem for many years and there has been little progress to show for it. Meanwhile our current Town Council has reacted pretty meekly by shifting money within the budget to do more paving and patching this year leaving less budget for future repairs.

This is too little TOO LATE! We still have a 15-year waiting list for resident road repairs! We believe this is a major enough pain that it deserves investment.

So what can we do about this problem?

The answer lies in a bond – a road bond. Tax-free bonds are attractive to investors and a well-established method of funding public infrastructure across the U.S.

As of 2015, it would cost $11 million for contractors to repave all the roads in BH, per the Township’s study conducted at that time. About 20% of the roads have been repaved since then, which leaves about $8 million of road repair work remains to be done.

If elected, we would encourage the Town Council to authorize General Obligation to fund the accelerated work needed to completely repave and repair all of our roads by 2025; to minimize the tax impact, we would spread the financing over an eight-year period prioritizing the most disastrous roads.

Based on current and projected interest rates, a single $8M Bond would increase taxes approximately $25 per year on the average household to pay for the bond but spreading the cost over multiple bond issues and a few years we think that we could keep that much lower. For less than the cost of a tank of gas and much less than the cost of pot-hole related auto damage or personal injury, we could get more roads fixed sooner.

Let’s invest wisely and deliver better quality of roads to our deserving townspeople.