Lakewood's Township Committee once again used the fact that their monthly meetings are held virtually to respond to questions submitted by members of the public via email with not much more than blank stares.

The Committee voted on final reading to approve two tax abatements. (Read about all the hard work Township officials are doing to ensure that the developers get their tax abatements despite lots of red tape here on FAA News).

Mayor Ray Coles read a statement submitted by Attorney Adam Pfeffer Esq. on behalf of the developers who are seeking the tax abatements. The statement highlighted that the buildings attract new businesses which will provide jobs to local residents. Additionally, the abatements will enable the landlords to charge lower rent for the first few years, thus its a win-win for tenants as well.

Numerous members of the public submitted public comments in opposition to the tax abatements on various grounds.

One resident stated that the office on Pine Street never belonged in this area and, additionally, the developer has already benefited from various freebies including free land for parking and zone changes, so a tax abatement above all that is definitely way too over the top.

Another resident stated, "I understand that for the Cedarbridge buildings the Township has no choice due to a long standing agreement to grant them tax cuts. However, the Township is under zero obligation to grant a tax abatement for this office building as it is not part of the Cedarbridge zone.

"In fact, last year the Planning Board voted strongly against these very tax cuts, noting that local business owners have said that they can't compete against so many new companies receiving tax cuts."

Yet another resident stated, "tax abatements are to incentivize building commercial properties, however, in Lakewood there is no lack of a market for commercial buildings, just ask Committeeman Meir Lichtenstein as he is the expert on that topic!"

Multiple members of the public opposed the tax abatements on the basis that these tax cuts actually increase taxes for the rest of us, as evident by the $4 million increase the Committee voted on last month.

The Committee just sat there with blank looks and did not provide any response or discussion on the concerns from the public.

Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller then offered a motion to approve the tax abatements and Committeeman Meir Lichtenstein offered a second. The votes to approve were unanimous (except that Mr. Lichtenstein abstained on voting on the tax abatement for the Locust Street shopping center).

During the public portion of the meeting, a Central Avenue resident complained about drivers using Caranetta Drive as a cut-off onto Central Avenue, as well as drivers blocking traffic while waiting to make left turns there.

Committeeman Albert Akerman responded that the NJDOT does have an eventual plan to change the east end of Caranetta Drive will be modified to egress only.

Mayor Coles suggested that for short-term relief, he could ask the police chief to get some enforcement out there. Mr. Lichtenstein responded that there isn't much the police department can do now because the neighbors complaint is regarding traffic building up while vehicles queue to turn left, however, he doesn't think that left turns are actually prohibited there.

The resident also stated that "there are numerous local media sites that cover Lakewood. If the Township has information to get out there, you should send it out to all local sites at the same time, or post it immediately on the Township website, instead of giving some important information to only certain media outlets."

Mayor Coles responded vaguely, "I have no idea what you're talking about, we give out information to everybody and we post everything on the Township website as well, so thank you very much."

Another member of the public reminded the Committee that last month he offered some vital changes to the Township's Open Space Ordinance to ensure that developers do not gyp us off from providing playgrounds and community centers in new developments. (Read more about those suggestions here on FAA News).

Mayor Coles responded simply, "we have not started formal work on that yet, but it is something that is important to the committee as a whole."

Another resident stated that a review of budgets from surrounding municipalities indicates that Lakewood is paying the most to our governing body, however, "you are grossly underpaid. You deserve to get taxpayer funded vehicles and drivers, internet and laptops, as you are apparently too overworked to attend a meeting in person."

The resident also stated that as the Township needs to be run full-time instead of part-time, it's high time that Lakewood Township follow in the steps of Jackson Township and adopt the Mayor-Council form of government. Lakewood Township is governed under the Township form of municipal government.

Finally, the resident questioned why the Township does not post Township information on the outdoor billboards "using the free time that you are entitled to?"

Mayor Coles and the Committee just sat there, gave no responses, and then ended the meeting.

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Anonymous said...

FAA News kisses up to Major Coles, never any sharp criticism of him like they do BLASTING other township officials mercilessly. I wonder why???

Anonymous said...

@anon ???
Please fill me in, am I missing something?