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Mayor & Council: Tax Abatement/Personnel Changes+ Tues. Oct. 17, 2023

Oct 17, 2023
Harrison NJ Town Hall

The Mayor and Council of Harrison, New Jersey, are set to discuss and adopt several resolutions and ordinances related to the town's development, public safety, and governance at their Tuesday, October 17, 2023 meeting scheduled for 6:15 p.m. start in the Harrison Town Hall on the 3rd Floor conference room and then moving to the Council Chamber on the 2nd Floor.

These decisions include providing a 30-year tax abatement for a new residential building, changing the Harrison Redevelopment Zone plan to allow a portion of a street to be included in pocket park, appointing additional firefighters to the Harrison Fire Department, adding three Captain positions to the Harrison Police Department personnel table, and appointing a new member to the Harrison Redevelopment Agency.

The Mayor & Council will hold a meeting to review and vote on the following items: -

Tax Abatement PILOT Ordinance

A resolution to approve a 30-year tax abatement for a new residential building to be constructed at 300 Somerset Street. The abatement would exempt the property owner from paying property taxes on the improvements for the first 30 years, and instead pay PILOT payments. The abatement aims to incentivize the development of new housing units in the town. The PILOT ordinance before the Mayor & Council states:

“In the current real estate marketplace, the rents likely to be achieved by this Project are not sufficient to pay for the costs of land and construction and the payment of full taxes while allowing the developer the opportunity to make a return on its investment that is sufficient to both warrant the risks and to convince the lending markets to provide the construction and permanent financing required by the project.”

With the rents that new luxury apartment buildings in Harrison are getting for studios, 1, 2 & 3 Bedroom apartments, the statement above may be dated and no longer applicable.  It is true however that once constructed the building will provide additional PILOT payments that will add to the already significant revenue coming into the Town of Harrison coffers.The problem exists however that the Mayor & Council have not passed along the revenue in terms of lowering real estate property taxes for long term property owners in Harrison. Long time residents of Harrison who rent are experiencing rent increases due to property tax, insurance and higher interest rates forcing landlords to increase rents to existing tenants as the market rents continue to rise in Harrison spurred by a continued interest in the Town of Harrison's convenient access to New York City and lower rents than other New York towns at least on the northern part of town.

Criticism of No Green Spaces Leads to Pocket Park Amendment

An ordinance to amend the Harrison Redevelopment Zone plan to allow the inclusion of what was a street for vehicles in an existing pocket park across from the Cape May Street Park. The amendment would modify the permitted uses and design standards for the area, and require the developer to dedicate a portion of the site for public use as a park. The amendment aims to enhance the town's green space, walkability, and livability, and provide a new amenity for residents and visitors. The addition of the street into the pocket park comes after Mayor James Fife received criticism for not having any green spaces for all residents of Harrison in the Harrison Redevelopment Zone.

Firefighter Appointments

A resolution to authorize the appointment of five additional firefighters to the Harrison Fire Department, effective September  11 2023 and September 18, 2023. The resolution cites the need to maintain adequate staffing levels, respond to emergencies, and ensure public safety.  The new firefighters are  Justin M. McDonald, Ryan W. Tarabocchia, Stephen M. Tunny, Cristian A. Godinez, and Anthony L. Magnatta.

Police Captains Added to Personnel Table

An ordinance to amend the Harrison Police Department personnel table to add three Captain positions, which did not previously had zero in the table. The ordinance would reclassify three Lieutenants as Captains, and provide them with higher salaries and responsibilities. The ordinance aims to recognize the leadership and expertise of the officers, and align the department's structure to its previous state before the Department of Consumer Affairs required the Captain position to be effectively eliminated from the Harrison Police Department.

Harrison Redevelopment Agency Appointment

A resolution to appoint a new member to the Harrison Redevelopment Agency. The resolution appoints Jesus Carrion to the unexpired term of current Commissioner Robert Gerris which would have been until April 5, 2025. The Harrison Redevelopment Agency oversees the town's redevelopment projects and plans in the Harrison Redevelopment Zone. The Harrison Redevelopment Agency was envisioned and created by the later Mayor Raymond McDonough and then Council.  The late Councilman Peter Higgins and former Councilman Anselmo Millan played important roles in the Town of Harrison’s efforts to turn a contaminated industrial portion of the town into a residential area.  Read more about their vision in the article entitled Twenty-Six Years: Mayor McDonough’s Vision Realized.

Resolution Recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The Mayor & Council will pass a resolution recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Harrison Cancer League raised a Breast Cancer Awareness Flag at the Harrison Town Hall last Friday, October 13, 2023. To read more about the Harrison Cancer League and Breast Cancer Awareness Month please read our article entitled Harrison Cancer League Breast Cancer Awareness Month Special Events.

Full Agenda

The above are only a part of the items on the Mayor & Council meeting agenda.  If you are interested in reading the complete Agenda you can obtain a copy through this link.

Public Session

During the public comment portion of the Mayor & Council meeting, anyone wishing to ask a question or make a comment may do so by lining up at the podium. You can comment when an Ordinance is introduced and during the Public Session at the end of the meeting. The Mayor & Council have a five-minute maximum time to speak per individual at the Public Session. You can get a lot of information if you ask questions in five minutes although other towns have 10-minute maximums.  The Town Clerk keeps track of the 5 minutes. Mayor Fife can extend your time so do not let the 5-minute time limitation be an excuse for you not to participate in the Public Session. 

Lastly, if you know that you can’t make the meeting, you can email your question and/or comment to the Harrison Town Clerk Paul Zarbetski at [email protected] or dust off your typewriter to type a letter and send it to Paul J. Zarbetski, Town Clerk, 318 Harrison Avenue, Harrison NJ 07029.  You need to submit the question or comment at least 2 hours before the scheduled meeting time.

Remember, The quality of democracy depends upon the degree of public participation. Democracy survives if you participate in it starting in your local community.

Are you going to the Mayor & Council meeting?  What is your question or questions you are going to ask?  Let Us Know Your Thoughts on our Community Discussion Board.  If you have not signed up yet to participate you can Sign Up now.