Merck tax appeal adds $66 to municipal tax bill

A tax appeal settlement with the city’s largest taxpayer, Merck & Co., will cost the average taxpayer another $66 this year, on top of what was expected to be a $146 municipal tax hike for the average Rahway home. The City Council approved the settlement by a 6-0-1 vote during its meeting last week.

Continue reading Merck tax appeal adds $66 to municipal tax bill

Zoning Board to take up St. Mary’s senior housing

The Zoning Board of Adjustment is expected to take up an application for a 51-unit senior housing development at its meeting Monday night. The four-story structure would be built on the St. Mary’s Church (now Divine Mercy Parish) complex, where the former convent building on Esterbrook Avenue was razed last year.

After three hours of testimony, questions from board members, and some public comment at its Jan. 28 meeting, the Zoning Board instructed the applicant, Domus Corporation, to come back with more feasible parking options. Domus is the development arm for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, building similar affordable senior housing in other New Jersey towns, with funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including rent subsidies.

At issue is whether the project will provide enough parking. The current plan eliminates eight of the 86 existing spaces from St. Mary’s parking lot while adding 27 specifically designated for senior housing, leaving a total 105 spaces. The applicant seeks several variances in addition to preliminary and final site plan approval.

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A good read from NJ Monthly about two brothers who have helped to redevelop Jersey City over the past 30 years, and in particular their current project, a former hospital in the Hamilton Park neighborhood.

Facade collapses at burned out E Cherry building

The ground-floor facade of the burned out building at 65 E. Cherry St. collapsed over the weekend. It’s likely that it occurred sometime between Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon.

The Redevelopment Agency considered buying the property last summer and last spring was looking into possibly demolishing the structure. Dornoch purchased the property for $65,000 from the Parking Authority and more than three years ago had proposed renovations to the Planning Board.
The two-story building has been vacant since a fire destroyed the beauty supply shop in the summer of 2005.
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MyCentralJersey.com had this profile of Aromalicious, the new pastry shop on East Cherry Street.

Tax appeals doubled in 2010

Refunds were approved for 52 tax appeals last year, twice as many as were filed and settled at the county Board of Taxation in the 2009 tax year.

The increase was not unexpected and primarily due to economic conditions, City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier said. In 2010, 20 of the 52 properties that were appealed were purchased in late 2008 or 2009, and three of them were brought by the city to correct assessments, he said.
The average tax refund among the 52 tax appeals was almost $1,900 while the average reduction on the appeal was $36,500. The largest appeals were industrial or commercial properties, such as more than $5,000 for 1072 Randolph Ave. and more than $15,000 for 670 E. Lincoln Ave., which saw its overall assessment reduced by a third. All 52 tax appeals can be found in this Google spreadsheet.
It’s much the same everywhere. This Bloomberg report from December indicated tax appeals are way up all over (“Tax appeals swamping U.S. cities, towns as property prices plunge”). Specifically, New Jersey homeowners filed 18,147 appeals in 2009, up from 10,067 the previous year — an increase of 80 percent.

Closer to home, there’s this story from MyCentralJersey.com, Piscataway budgets $500G for tax appeals, as well as this one from the Cranford Chronicle, Citing tax appeals, Cranford officials say surplus is down to $58,000 from previous estimates of $1 million.

In November, the City Council approved a multi-year tax appeal settlement for 1510 Main St./90 E. Cherry St. (Block 318, Lot 12) that had been pending in Tax Court. (It was not among the 52 appeals in 2010).

The building, acquired by Pioneer Investment Corp. in Linden for $205,000 in February 2000, houses Skaff Pharmacy on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floors. It pays about $11,000 annually in property taxes. The assessment was dropped by $37,600 — from $202,600 to $165,000 — reducing property tax by $1,909 in 2008, $1,962 in 2009 and $2,054. The total $5,924 will be applied toward 2011 taxes, as per the Tax Court.
After more than an hour in closed session tonight, the City Council approved a tax appeal settlement with Merck that will affect the 2011 budget and tax bills. The settlement was approved by a 6-0-1 vote. We’ll have details later this week.

City Council vote on budget Monday

After holding a public hearing on the municipal budget last month, the City Council is expected to vote on the spending plan at its meeting on Monday at 7 p.m.

The 2011 budget, which runs through June, is $44.9 million, with approximately $31.1 million (up from $29.7 million last year) coming from property taxes. The governing body held a public hearing on the budget at its January meeting but tabled approval of the spending plan until the February meeting. The overall budget is up about 1.3 percent from last year while last year’s budget was up about 4.5 percent.

The average home, assessed at $133,000, paid roughly $2,280 in municipal taxes last year, and that total is expected to rise by about 6 percent, according to City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier. A 6-percent increase would bump last year’s average municipal taxes paid by about $136, for a total of almost $2,416.

Municipal taxes generally make up about a quarter of the overall tax bill, with another quarter from county taxes and half from school taxes.

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In case you missed it, the Merck-Schering-Plough merger, announced almost two years ago, looks like it will mean some of Merck’s Rahway employees, as well as some in Summit and Union, will be moved to Kenilworth eventually. The firm plans to convert its Kenilworth campus into a research center focused on biologics, according to this Star-Ledger report last month. Some 580 manufacturing jobs will be lost while another 900 employees in marketing, HR and legal will move to the headquarters in Whitehouse Station.

Agency awards appraisal contract for homes

The Redevelopment Agency last month awarded a contract to Woodbridge-based Prime Appraisal, Inc. to perform appraisals on three Hamilton Street properties eyed for future parking related to Arts District projects.

The contract is for $6,000, or no more than $2,000 to appraise each property, all of which are two-family homes:
* 318-320 Hamilton St. (Block 167, Lot 43), which paid about $7,500 in property taxes last year, and last sold in November 1998 for $135,000, according to PropertyShark.com.
* 332-336 Hamilton St. (Block 167, Lot 41), which last year paid about $7,000 in property taxes, but the most recent sale price was not available.
* 342-344 Hamilton St. (Block 167, Lot 40), which paid about $6,300 in property taxes and last changed hands in November 1995 for $124,000.

The Redevelopment Agency last month agreed to pursue a 220-seat black box theater for the former Bell Telephone Building, awarding a $5.825-million bid to Gingerelli Bros, Inc. of Toms River. The agency put off construction of a 1,300-seat amphitheater and instead will move forward with a parking lot on the former Hamilton Laundry site in the meantime.

One home adjacent to the proposed amphitheater site already has been razed, after the agency acquired it for $340,000 in 2008, and another is set to be knocked down after the City Council approved $400,000 for acquisition ($240,000) and demolition and related asbestos and tank removal.

Rahway gets ready for its close-up

In an effort to market the city, Rahway plans to run cable advertisements later this year.

City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier told the Redevelopment Agency at its meeting last week that commissioners would be able to offer their input before a report is finalized. He met with Comcast last week to begin developing a series of professional ads to promote the downtown, invite young people to move to Rahway and showcase what it has to offer downtown – like the train station and Union County Performing Arts Center – and beyond.

Pelissier estimated the cost of the promotional campaign would be $25,000 to $30,000 and come from this year’s municipal budget, which will be up for final approval at Monday night’s City Council meeting. “It will be absolutely worth every penny,” he said, adding that production of the ads would begin by the spring, with broadcasts soon after.

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A study released Friday indicates that the state’s Transit Village designation (which Rahway has), “is helpful, but not necessary” for towns to see an increase in property values, according to a report on nj.com. Those towns that saw the most property value increases were ones with “a commitment for mixed-used developments around the train station.”

Nail salon expands to former dance space

Paris Nails last month expanded into the former Union County Dance Academy at 1542 Irving St. The dance academy left last spring for a new space in Linden.

No word on details of the lease, but the property last exchanged hands in 1998 for $600,000, according to PropertyShark.com.

Thanks to Bob Markey of the Chamber of Commerce for the photo. I’ll be catching up on a few things, so look for multiple posts this week.

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In another look at what other towns are doing with respect to their downtown or other commercial areas: Cranford considers pulling pay stations from Centennial Avenue parking areas. In this case, it’s not the downtown area – a point the mayor makes in the story – but also, the pay stations generate $7,000 in annual revenue but cost $9,000 to operate. The story quotes the mayor as saying the pay stations “place a burden on the business district that is still attempting to gain its footing.”