Galloway Township Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola favors tax abatements for businesses considering development in the Route 30 corridor or considering moving into the currently vacant Lenox China property.
“I think government shouldn’t get involved in private business, but this area is underutilized,” said Coppola, who is also the chairman of the township's Economic Development Advisory Committee.
Coppola would like to see a five-year abatement program, in which a business owner wouldn’t pay taxes on any improvements made in the first year, followed by a 20 percent tax in the second year, a 40 percent tax the third year, a 60 percent tax the fourth year and an 80 percent tax the fifth year.
By the sixth year, owners would be paying full taxes on all improvements, and owners would be expected to pay all taxes that already apply to the property.
“If you have an empty lot valued at $400,000, they would still have to pay taxes on that $400,000,” Coppola said. “But they would start out not paying taxes on the improvements, and then those improvements might go to several million dollars. … Having no taxes in the beginning just helps offset the initial costs.”
Coppola also said the township would not lose money on these abatements, but said it was an investment to “create demand for something people want.”
Redevelopment statutes also allow for Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) programs to help reduce the cost to developers.
Mayor Don Purdy said Township Planner Tiffany Cuviello is working on the redevelopment plan, and is finalizing the incentives. He believes something should be ready to go before council within the next few meetings.
Tax abatements is an issue the council's lone Democrat Jim Gorman has always been in favor of, and something he spoke of often during last November's elections.
"People are starting to realize we need to bring in ratables and you need to offer incentives," Gorman said. "They realize we're missing out if we don't offer incentives. Everybody's driving a bargain these days, and everyone's looking for the best deal."
Gorman says he would be in favor of long-term abatements, and the more a business pays, the greater abatement Gorman would be in favor of.
Whatever the township does, Coppola says it needs to make sure it advertises them.
“It would be like if I said to people, ‘Come on in to my restaurant on Tuesday, we’re going to have specials.’ People would say to me ‘What are the specials?’” Coppola said. “We can’t just say we have tax abatements. … Once our redevelopment plan is done, we can outline our incentives and we need to advertise them.”
Galloway Council discussed the putting out a “Request for Proposals” (RFP) for the redevelopment of the Lenox site during its meeting Tuesday night, March 27. Lenox China, located on Tilton Road, produced ceramics in Galloway Township from 1953-2005, when it closed.
“It’s a 60-acre site with over 400,000 square feet inside, it’s got a water tower, a railroad spur and it’s within the area designated as in need of redevelopment,” Coppola said. “It has a lot of advantages.”
"It offers a lot," Gorman said. "It has an open footprint, the square footage is there, it has a big parking lot. The project has so many advantages."
An advantage Coppola feels the Route 30 corridor has is that it’s already established. It’s also a highway commercial zone.
Purdy would have no problem putting a commercial ratable in that area.
"As long as it doesn't choke out the little guy, but I don't think it will," Purdy said. "I think the little guy will thrive with the big guys around."
“People say they don’t want a shopping center in their backyard,” Coppola said. “This is a highway commercial zone, and it’s appropriate for commercial development. We need to bring in ratables and offset the burden on the taxpayers. It’s the only way to reduce the burden on the residents.”