By Councilman John Genovesi / Rutherford
(Sept. 9, 2010) — Recent headlines have addressed the issue of a resolution passed by the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders which denounced Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal for the future of the Meadowlands Sports Complex. The resolution’s sponsor, ex-Rutherford mayor and current freeholder, Bernadette McPherson, made her case that the privatization of public assets in the Meadowlands would both hurt local economies and provide “powerful development interests” a platform for developing. Both this resolution (1009-G Aug. 4, 2010) and its sponsor addressed the possibility of housing development as points against the governor’s plan. However, it was stated in local media sources that housing in fact was never discussed in the so-called Hanson report.
I have always been firmly against any high-density housing in the Meadowlands portion of Rutherford. That has never changed despite what I feel has been a reversal of positions by McPherson. I recall that in fact the same Bernadette McPherson was a major advocate of high-density housing development in the Meadowlands in the form of the mega-development mini-city EnCap, which sprouted from the sale of public land to private developers. Its demise and collapse has left Rutherford with an inability to collect large sums of property taxes.
This resolution closes the door on discussions regarding this issue and on commercial development. Communities like Rutherford may be able to benefit from commercial development that would move into the area based upon the new business opportunities that could grow out of the sale of the state-owned taxpayer-funded facilities. If, for example, a commercial developer was to step in and purchase the former EnCap site due to its proximity to the complex, Rutherford may be able to reap the benefits of commercial property tax revenue.
Rutherford is in desperate need of an economic engine to power our future financial needs and provide non-bonded infrastructure repairs. The reason I feel so strongly about the need to commercially develop deals with our municipal budget process. There is a delicate balance between the two major sources of revenue that our borough receives.
One, our residential tax levy is driving our homeowners to the brink of financial crisis in many cases. The second, our commercial property tax levy is far smaller than it is capable of being. In short, the more you increase your commercial property taxable income, the less dependent you will be on your residential property owners.
The benefits of commercial development are tremendous for small communities like Rutherford. For instance, commercial properties do not add children to our school system, provide their own property maintenance, plowing and carting of garbage and waste materials. They act as new employers and provide work opportunities to those seeking employment. The municipality gains taxable income on commercial properties without the expenses that apply to providing services to housing elements. The same can be said for the State of New Jersey. By supporting the sale of the sports complex you are in essence allowing the taxpayers of the state that have been investing in these properties for years to gain something from that investment. The other option is to continue to lose money on the publicly-owned sports complex.
The stripping away of economic opportunities for a community to develop commercial revenue sources for the advancement of its citizenry is equivalent to taking away the right to govern its own affairs. This resolution may have been addressed to the upper aristocracy of New Jersey politics, however its negative impact is a missed opportunity for the benefit of the everyday resident. Politicians who can make a difference should make a difference. As an elected official you carry that obligation to the populous you have been elected to serve.
The door should be reopened on this issue. Rutherford does not want additional housing, but we do want the ability to generate revenue and provide relief to our residents. Those that have the power to effect change should use that power to do exactly that. I ask that the freeholder be far more cautious in dealing with potential business opportunities that have a tremendous impact upon small communities like the one I represent.
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