BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Nokia has hired a consulting group to help evaluate whether Nokia should stay at its current location.

Mayor Robert Woodruff made that information public at the Nov. 20 Township Council meeting. As a prelude to the announcement, he told the council he and Township John Bussiculo have been “paying attention to the Nokia Alcatel property,” in particular because of the affordable housing situation, which could have caused a “potential nightmare,” should Nokia want to build on its land. Because the township has reached a court-approved settlement with developers on its affordable housing numbers, it’s “protected until 2025,” from having to build more, said Woodruff.

The firm contacted Nokia and attempted to set up a meeting covered by “a non-disclosure agreement,” but Woodruff said “we couldn’t do that.” During the meeting, Nokia representatives explained they are “evaluating their campus,” and attempting to decide if they will remain at that location or not; “They believe they are” staying, said Woodruff.

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They talked about possible uses for the campus, including building a hotel, additional housing or some form of redevelopment. Woodruff said “they have been told our current zoning laws don’t allow” the things they have considered, but he predicted something is coming and “it’s coming soon. Everyone knows how big the property is,” and estimated they are “probably using thirty-three percent of the buildings.”  He conceded there are a lot of “business reasons to evaluate where they are and where they are going,” but he doesn’t know how they will proceed.

In another matter related to Alcatel-Lucent USA, Inc. property at 600 Mountain Avenue, the township has reached an agreement on a tax appeal the firm filed challenging the “total tax assessment levied upon Block 3701, Lot 1” for 2014, 2015, 2016. 2017, and 2018 tax years.

The assessment for those years was $86,065,000 and will remain the same for 2014 and 2015. In 2016, the assessment will be reduced to $79,300,000 for 2016; $78,082,300 for 2017; $76,065,000 in 2018. In addition, all refunds due “will be applied equally to the quarterly tax payments due in 2019 and 2020,” and interest has been waived by the taxpayer and shall not be paid on the tax credits.

Finally, according to the resolution, the tax assessments for 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 tax years for that property “shall be set by the Tax Assessor each year at no more than $76,065,000 ‘on the books,’ if, prior to the close of the books for each of said tax years, there has been no ‘change in value’ of the property … and there is no sale of the property then pending for more than the equalized value for any of said year; and there was been no district-wide reassessment or revaluation.”

During the meeting, Township CFO Michel Marceau was unable to provide a specific figure as to what the reassessment will cost the township in tax revenue. He referred TAPinto to the tax assessor and a message was left at that office on Thursday, Nov. 29, but was not immediately returned. When the information is available, the article will be updated.