WESTFIELD, NJ — Property owners could soon have another reason to improve their properties in Downtown Westfield.

The town council is poised to vote on a measure Tuesday that, if approved, would designate Westfield’s special improvement district an “area in need of rehabilitation” and therefore provide tax incentives for owners within that area to improve their properties. The council meeting will be held via video conference.

The tax abatements can last for up to five years, officials said. It gives property owners the option of being taxed on the value of their property as it stood before the new improvements are made, Mayor Shelley Brindle said.

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“It enables them to grow into the improvements of their property as opposed to getting stuck with the tax bill up front, prior to getting the monetary benefit of their improvement,” Brindle said at last week’s planning board meeting at which the membership approved the measure and referred it to the town council for a final decision.

Other municipalities in New Jersey to designate or consider designation of  areas in need of rehabilitation include Union Township, Caldwell Borough and Red Bank.

Town Planner Donald Sammet said the designation, while similar to, is different from a declaration of an “area in need of redevelopment” — something the town is doing for an area on the town’s south side.

A redevelopment zone, he said, allows for tax abatements of up to 30 years, while in a rehabilitation zone the tax abatements only last for 5 years.

Rehabilitation zones, Sammet noted, also do not allow municipalities to condemn properties as in the case in some redevelopment zones.

In addition, the planning board plays different role in designating an area in need of redevelopment, he said.

“You do not have to prepare that preliminary investigation report,” Sammet told the planning board. “You do not need to a hold a public hearing. You only need to review the mayor and council’s resolution.”

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

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