WARETOWN, NJ – For most, it represents more than an eyesore. Many want to know why construction ceased on the property opposite the Shop Rite on Route 9 in Ocean Township. Rumors suggest developers are waiting for the Township to grant tax abatements. Meanwhile, it’s not something that sits well with the local Board of Education.
At last night’s Ocean Township Board of Education meeting, Board President Shawn Denning, Jr. brought the issue to the forefront. “I would like the Board to adopt a position on tax cuts and “PILOT” programs,” said Denning. “I believe that we, as a Board of Education, need to unanimously consistently oppose all tax cuts that give up our money.”
The acronym PILOT stands for Payments in Lieu of Taxes and represents a form of tax abatement. Developers make an annual payment to municipalities in exchange for an exemption in traditional property taxes for a specified time period.
According to Ocean Township Clerk, Diane B. Ambrosio, the developers of Tradewinds at Waretown requested PILOTs on two separate occasions. “One was before they broke ground,” she said. “The other was after. Both were denied.”
Platinum Developers of Lakewood were the project originators back in 2017. According to tax records, Tradewinds Holdings LLC & Frimet Feder, also of Lakewood, assumed deed to the property known as Block 131, Lot 4, in August of 2017.
Construction started off quickly and is now at a complete standstill. Upon completion, the project calls for 15 one bedroom and 129 two-bedroom apartments. Commercial storefronts are planned for the bottom level of the mixed-use development.
“If the Township wants to grant a tax abatement, they are more than welcome to abate their share,” Denning continued. “However, emphatically, no one has the right to give up Board of Education funding without our say or consent.”
Ocean Township already faces budgetary issues related to a $5.7M phase out of state funding over the next five years. The loss represents one third of the district’s budget.
Denning acknowledged that the development across from Shop Rite lacks curb appeal. However, he also expressed concerns that when it is completed, it could result in approximately 100 extra children in the district. Roughly estimated, this could add another $1.5M to the already challenged school budget.
“From a school tax standpoint, that piece of property could stay vacant forever,” submitted Denning. “If a tax abatement is granted for any number of years, we not only lose money because we gain kids without extra funding. We also lose whatever the term is for the PILOT.”
In the meantime, the Board of Education will most likely gain additional students when the Cornerstone at Waretown project finishes. The income-restricted affordable housing community is expected to bring in approximately 55 children with no tax dollars appropriated to the Board of Education.
While Board of Education member Kelly Zuzic agreed that making a statement was a good thing, she posed a question. “What can we really do to see that this doesn’t happen as far as legalities?”
According to Denning, a resolution would serve as authorization to speak on behalf of the district and the Board of Education for dissemination to parents. The goal would be to apply political pressure in opposition to any tax deals.
Ocean Township’s Board of Education Attorney Andrew Brown, Esq advised that the best course of action would be a formal resolution adopting the sentiments expressed by Denning. None of the board members expressed opposition to the proposal.
Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.