The town previously provided a similar tax incentive for property owners in the downtown.

WESTFIELD, NJ — If your home is deemed historic in Westfield and you renovate it, you may soon get a tax advantage.

The town council on Tuesday introduced a local law that if approved following a legally required public hearing would provide five-year tax abatements to owners of historically designated homes on the value of improvements made to their properties.

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“Incentivizing homeowners to voluntarily designate their historic homes continues to be the primary goal and focus of the Historic Preservation Commission, and I’m pleased that this ordinance can provide some additional assistance to further that cause,” said Mayor Shelley Brindle at the online council session.

Brindle said the town is taking the measure in response to public feedback and as a companion to an extensive rewrite that strengthens Westfield’s historic preservation ordinance. The revision to Westfield's historic preservation law has prompted extensive debate in recent months.

Council members introduced the tax abatement law 8-1, with member Mark LoGrippo casting the lone dissenting vote.

“I’d like to get a better understanding of the financials on that before we give tax abatements,” LoGrippo said.

Sherry Hines, a resident of Stoneleigh Park, objected to the measure, for which the council had previously declared the entire town “an area in need of rehabilitation” under the state’s municipal land use law.

“I’ve been concerned that we’re going to consider the whole town of Westfield in need of rehabilitation, which is just going to open the floodgates for tax abatements to any kind of developer who comes along,” Hines said.

Brindle said that the declaration of the entire town as being “in need of rehabilitation” is a legal device that allows Westfield to implement the tax incentive. The rehabilitation resolution refers to the town’s sewer infrastructure as being at least 50 years old and “in need of repair or substantial maintenance.”

“It’s strictly a mechanism for enabling us to use this tax law to benefit historic, just historically designated properties,” Brindle said. “I actually got this idea from Mayor [Jonathan] Busch in Metuchen.”

Westfield previously implemented a similar measure that allows for the five-year tax abatements on the value of improvements to any property within the town’s special improvement district, which encompasses the downtown.

While in Westfield this tax advantage is only to be granted to downtown property owners and the owners of historically designated homes, the law allows municipalities to offer the incentive to all property owners in a municipality.

Earlier this year, the Township Council in Belleville did just that, when it declared the entire municipality, located in Essex County, an area in need of rehabilitation.

Bloomfield, Newark, Jersey City, Bayonne, South Orange, Bordentown and Highland Park are among the New Jersey municipalities that have made similar moves, a report by NorthJersey.com said.

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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