Red Bank Republican candidates for borough council, Michael Whelan and Mark Taylor, issued a statement criticizing their opponent, Councilman Michael Dupont, and the rest of the Democrats on the council for giving John Morrongielo, the private investor who owns the Locust Landing affordable housing development, a $75,000 break on fees due under the developer’s PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement and municipal services agreement after 16 of the 40 affordable rental units were damaged by Superstorm Sandy.
Dupont laughed uproariously yesterday when he heard the Republicans claims and said that they were “outlandish”and “inaccurate.”
On September 10, 2014, Dupont introduced Resolution 14-242 which granted temporary relief from paying annual service charges to Locust Landing for 2013 and 2014 and provided that the Land Taxes paid on the property be applied to the service charges due under the PILOT agreement.
Dupont told MMM this morning, after he said he reviewed his notes, that the 2014 resolution did not give any fee waiver, but rather, was a resolution not to declare the PILOT agreement in default and terminate it due to late payments.
However, the minutes of the September 10, 2014 meeting reveal that Borough Attorney Daniel J. O’Hern, JR told the council that the resolution would waive a service charge on the PILOT agreement due to a late payment. Chief Financial Officer Eugenia Poulos told the council that service charge was $30,000. Councilwoman Cindy Burnham, a the only Republican on the council at the time who voted against the resolution, noted that the amount was $60,000 for the two years, 2013 and 2014, as assertion that was not disputed by O’Hearn or Poulos. O’Hern said there would be “no loss” to the borough, that they would only be waiving a late fee that was due.
On August 26 of this year, Dupont introduced another resolution, 15-221, which would have waived another $15,000 in late fees due from Locust Landing. However, according to the minutes of the August 26 meeting, members of the public, including Paul Cagno, Sue Viscomi and Bill Meyer, raised questions about the propriety of giving such a break to a private-for-profit entity and whether struggling low income families in Red Bank would have the same benefit. Meyer raised the issue of Locust Landing’s insurance coverage and questioned whether the Red Bank taxpayers were compensating the developer, Morrongiello, for being under insured. Mayor Pat Menna said that Meyer raised a good point. Dupont moved to table the resolution pending a collection of information from the Tax Assessor and the Tax Court.
In his interview with MMM this morning, Dupont said that the new resoluiton, like the 2014 resolution, does not waive any fees due from Locust Landing. “So what are you waiving and tabling?” MMM asked. “That is a good question,” Dupont said. “it’s complicated, your should read the PILOT agreement.”
GOP council candidate Whelan said, “had the council simply asked for a copy of the insurance policy of Locust Landing, they would have seen that loss of income due to a covered peril would be reimbursed. If any Red Bank family had gone two years without paying their property taxes, is it possible they’d be getting the same sweetheart deal?”
Mark Taylor, Whelan’s running mate for council, added,”as an attorney who has fought for Sandy victims, I find it troubling that Mr. Dupont has taken the lead to reintroduce this matter to the council. The exception granted in 2014 was a one-time exception, yet DuPont and the Democrats are trying to again put money back into the pockets of a millionaire developer. I think Red Bank taxpayers deserve better.”
Sean DiSomma, Red Bank’s GOP Chairman, noted that DuPont has voted to raise property taxes nearly 40% and water rates by almost 35%. DiSomma said he didn’t think there was anything nefarious or corrupt going on with the Locust Landing waivers. “It’s a matter of competance, ” DiSomma said.