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!