Council Withdraws Tax Break Ordinance
An ordinance to work toward a tax abatement for buyers of condos at "The Monarch" project was withdrawn at Monday's regular City Council meeting.
The ordinance is expected to be discussed in closed session Sept. 24 and action may be taken that night. The City Council also expects to introduce the state fiscal year 2010 budget on Sept. 24 at the special meeting, 8 p.m. in City Hall Library.
On Monday, City Council President Rashid Burney prompted City Administrator Marc Dashield to acknowledge the withdrawal.
"Did you want to talk about withdrawal of one item?" Burney asked.
Dashield's face took on a quizzical look.
But Burney then said, "We're not going to vote on it tonight," referring to the tax abatement ordinance.
Burney said information needed before the council could vote "just got to Marc hours ago."
Even though city interaction with developer Glen Fishman dates back to 2006 and a development agreement was signed in January 2007, the governing body is now reviewing the deal and the reasons why the developer is now seeking city approval for a tax abatement. The building at 400 East Front Street has a new senior center and veterans center on the ground floor and 21 condos on each of three upper floors. Although it is not spelled out in the ordinance, officials say Fishman wants a five-year abatement allowing condo buyers to pay only 40 percent of city taxes.
The ordinance passed on first reading in July, but did not go on to second reading and final passage due to a public outcry and council questions. Last Tuesday, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs cautioned a group of seniors outside the council's agenda-fixing session that the building, including the new center, could be lost to the city if the tax break was not granted. There was nothing on the agenda about a tax amendment and seniors did not get a chance to speak until past 11 p.m.
Since then, several bloggers have written about the development agreement and one even put it up online in an effort to resolve questions on its terms. Seniors who have been meeting in leased space at 305 East Front Street since 1989 mostly want to know when they can move to the new center.
Meanwhile, officials are asking the developer to explain his situation and why the proposed tax break is needed to ward off converting the condos to rental apartments. Only about 15 have sale contracts. There are also some building code issues with the center, Dashield said last night.
Some seniors who pleaded with the council last week to pass the tax abatement appeared to have taken a harder look at the issue.
"If you can't pay some taxes, don't come to Plainfield," senior Emily Washington said in public comment.
Referring to the proposed tax break for newcomers, Marion Trabelsi asked, "Why not pay attention to the people that are here?"
Under the 2007 agreement, the developer had two years from the date of being granted a building permit to complete the project. A ground-breaking ceremony was held in July 2007, but the developer then missed three stated completion dates. The two-year span is up in October and if it is not met, the developer will be in default of the agreement unless the governing body grants an extension.