Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Monday, October 01, 2012

PILOT Is Ejected

 Just when you think everyone is on board, that the deal is done, and that you can relax, your town council rethinks an affordable housing complex program in which the developer will pay minimum, if any taxes, in return for doing its own garbage and snow removal.

Even the Bloomingdale Board of Education was on board for Avalon Bay.  The EPA was okay with it, even though its swampy marshland, just like much of the rest of the land on the northern side of Union Avenue.  No worries about bloomingdalus frogus here.  Or the ghosts of the Pompton Mutiny.  In a rather unusual move, the town declared it a “blighted area” ripe for redevelopment zoning, even though nothing has lived there since the last Ice Age.

When last we heard, Councilwoman Linda Shortman said she wanted to do more research on this project before giving it the thumbs up, even though the developer has been blasting away at the area now for weeks and upsetting the poor old people in the nursing facility next door.

This change of events made Major Jonathan Dunleavy very cranky.  He demanded that Councilwoman Shortman and Councilman Conklin to explain their changes in vote, they had no explanation, at least according to the mayor and the reporter from the Suburban Trends.

“In explaining her reasons for not supporting the ordinance, Councilwoman Shortman said she felt the Union Avenue parcel where AvalonBay is being constructed was inappropriately named  as redevelopment zone (not to mention, a “bay”) because it was not a blighted area as is often the case when properties are designated as redevelopment zones.

“Additionally, Shortman questioned the 2-percent built-in increase provided under the PILOT program (Payment in Lieu Of Taxes), while she predicted that homeowners taxes will go up more.

So then, the mayor and council got into an argument about who bonded more, Democrats or Republicans, leaving property owners and businesses in debt.   Some residents noted that the Board Education was “comfortable” with the arrangements, while others noted that Avalon Communities was the type of developer with no scruples about suing to get what it wants, and that such a developer would likely to bring more trouble to the town than benefits.

Bloomingdale’s average taxes are nearly $8,000 per year, compared to $6,537 in next-door Butler.  Butler has the advantage of having commercial ratables, although it also has the burglaries and the traffic headaches to go along with it.

But not to fear.  AvalonBay is within a few hundred feet in each direction of blind curves.  Union Avenue is a winding, country, two-lane county-maintained road.  The mayor said that AvalonBay would have its own security.  This particular location, I predict, will keep the Bloomingdale Police Department, the fire department (which is right down the road), to say nothing of the Tri-Boro first aid squad (who says we don’t know who to share services?), very busy.  A 174-unit complex is capable of producing about 350 cars.  Union Avenue is already a busier road since the I-287 interchange went in.

As for schoolchildren, it is yet to be seen just how many children AvalonBay will produce.  Although the Martha B. Day School is right up the hill, there’s no road up there, as yet.  Bloomingdale has 522 schoolchildren at the moment.  If every unit in AB housed even two children, like the cars, that would mean 350 additional children.  Probably not all on the same grade level, but that call for at least 15 new classrooms.

On the other hand, AvalonBay may not wind up having any kids at all, but rather senior citizens.  Given that it’s being built next to a senior nursing facility, it’s the more likely prognostication.  If the citizens of Bloomingdale could just see the blueprints, we wouldn’t have to do all this guessing.

Mayor Dunleavy was so undone that, in addition to the article about the most recent PILOT meeting (now we know why there were so many cars at the municipal building the other night), he wrote a commentary to the Suburban Trends, vowing that he only had Bloomingdale’s best interests at heart and that the PILOT program would ultimately save the taxpayers money, ultimately stabilizing and reducing municipal taxes.

Bloomingdale has seen a population decline of 2.6 per cent since its heyday in the 1980 Census of 7,867 residents.  In 10 years, its poverty level has climbed from 3.4 percent to 5.7 percent.  It’s been rising again, though slowly.   With a population of 7,656, Bloomingdale is in no danger of losing its coveted small town status (the town started out with a population of 2,193).

There are socialist forces at work that want to condemn any town with a population below 10,000.  Bloomingdalers are up in arms at the thought of playing host to cluster-style apartment housing, the kind they’ve seen spring up in neighboring towns and all the social ills that come with it.  If a commercial business had gone in there, no one would have thought about it twice. You can’t keep the world out forever, Mom says.  But Bloomingdale is going to do its darndest.

Bloomingdale was the scene of one mutiny two centuries or so ago (in fact, in the very spot where AvalonBay is being constructed).  It’s about time for another one.








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