BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan board of education again discussed the P.I.L.O.T. (Payment in Lieu of taxes) program that has been a topic of discussion with regard to the proposed Center of Excellence on Route 202/206, and agreed that the district should be part of the conversation.
The board voted to urge the councils in both Bridgewater and Raritan to collaborate with the school board on the matter, and to not only keep it abreast of any future developments, particularly potential tax abatements, but to make sure the district is fairly compensated if any new properties are proposed that will affect the school system.
Board member Ann Marie Mead asked if the board needed to rush to a decision that evening, while board president Jill Gladstone said she “didn’t see any politics in this," or in meeting with the councils.
“I support going for this,” Gladstone said.
The 110-acre Center of Excellence, to be located on Route 202/206, was formerly known as the Sanofi Aventis site. The town council approved a redevelopment ordinance several years ago that included plans for 400 rental apartment units, 10 percent of which would be affordable housing units.
The project is currently before the planning board and has not yet received final approval to move forward.
Bridgewater council president Matthew Moench spoke during the school board’s Feb. 26 meeting, and stated that the council is working on a resolution opposing P.I.L.O.T. programs. He also added that he doesn't support the option of giving tax breaks to developers, and that projects such as the Center of Excellence are being deliberated without input from the board of education.
Mead, meanwhile, expressed concerns at that February meeting that the situation is “going to get political.” She later said that she wouldn’t vote “yes” for now, and might perhaps do so in the summer. She also reiterated that she didn’t want the district to be a political pawn, as Moench is running for mayor in Bridgewater this year, against longtime incumbent Dan Hayes.
Board member Barry Walker said he had brought up the notion of a P.I.L.O.T. over the last three years, but that “no one addressed it.”
As worded in the resolution: "The Bridgewater- Raritan Regional School District urges the Bridgewater Town Council and the Raritan Borough Council to collaborate with the school board by including it in conversations and determinations concerning tax abatements for proposed developments, as well as any other long term planning that would impact the school district; and be it further; resolved, that local officials should take the opportunity during the negotiating process to ensure that if the new property directly affects the school district, accommodations should be made to include the school district with compensation or appropriate credit."
The board voted in favor of the resolution, with six voting yes, and only Mead abstaining.