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PILOTs help economic development in Woodbridge, mayor says

Mayor John McCormac stressed the importance of economic development in 2019 in his State of the Township address on Jan. 29

WOODBRIDGE – With the Township of Woodbridge soon receiving more than $30 million per year in revenue from Payment in Lieu of Tax agreements (PILOTs), Mayor John McCormac said it makes sense to continue the agreements.

“It works,” he said as he delivered the Woodbridge State of the Township address before the Woodbridge Metro Chamber of Commerce (WMCC), the Woodbridge Economic Development Corporation (WEDCO), members of the Central New Jersey regional corporate business community, and township residents on Jan. 29 at the Renaissance Hotel and Conference Center on Route 1.

“So much of what we are able to do, including our school projects for turf fields, tennis courts, tracks, gym floors, playgrounds and auditorium seating, as well as the investment in our township recreational facilities and road and park and other improvements, has been because of our efforts to attract new redevelopment projects, which provide millions of tax dollars.”

McCormac touched on myriad highlights with economic development, the Woodbridge Township School District Facilities Improvement Project, quality of life initiatives and strategies for maintaining Woodbridge as what he calls the “Best Town Around.”

“Even though businesses get a discount on their property taxes from our PILOTs, they still pay on average over 85 percent of what they would have otherwise paid in regular property taxes,” McCormac said.

Just like the township will pay for the Ross Street Elementary School No. 11 and Woodbridge Middle School projects, which began construction last year, with PILOT monies from economic development projects, the township can pay for the upcoming new school projects with PILOT monies from development on the Avenel site, McCormac said.

The township is about to close on the purchase of more than 50 acres of land where the Woodbridge Developmental Center on Rahway Avenue once stood.

“We have had conversations with the Board of Education and we are looking to donate a portion of that land to the [BOE] to construct a new [elementary] School 4/5 on the front of the site on Rahway Avenue,” the mayor said. “Built in 1912, School 4/5 remains the oldest school building in the district and is no longer conducive to today’s modern learning environment.”

Other school projects to be considered include a plan for Elementary School No. 14 in Fords, which has issues with the physical infrastructure, and Elementary School No. 22 in Colonia, which is still separated into multiple buildings.

“School security and technology are always under consideration for new investment,” McCormac said. “A referendum in March 2020 will provide a large state aid boost to us and will be another slam dunk decision for voters as we use warehouse project money to continue to invest in our schools with no property tax impact on our residents just like in 2017.”

McCormac said PILOTs are “roundly criticized by people who do not understand them and who like to misstate that a PILOT means no taxes at all.”

He noted the CPV (Competitive Power Ventures) Power Plant in the Keasbey section of town will pay more than $115 million in regular taxes over a 30-year period. If not for the PILOT, he said the land would have remained 100 vacant, contaminated acres, paying under $100,000 per year in regular taxes.

“Prologis, PSEG, Amazon and Preferred Freezer and other projects are why we can invest in our town and our schools,” he said.

McCormac said tax incentive programs at the state level are being carefully scrutinized, but the township’s PILOT incentive programs are approved only under strict guidelines.

“They are monitored by our professionals for compliance and they have truly helped improve our quality of life throughout Woodbridge Township,” he said.

In 2019, McCormac said Arizona Iced Tea will “hopefully open its long awaited” warehouse and manufacturing facility in Fords; Duke Realty recently purchased nine acres from PQ Chemical and hopes to build a 175,000 square-foot warehouse; the Proctor and Gamble facility and a Paddock Street warehouse in Avenel are under new ownership with significant renovations on the agenda for the planning board; and Buckeye Pipeline has major plans for its facility in Port Reading that was recently purchased from Hess.

“Three sites in town that have had our attention for years might finally be seeing some serious action,” he said. “The Gentempo property in Keasbey, Pennval Road land in Sewaren and a junkyard on South Inman Avenue and Route 1 are all being evaluated as future warehouse sites.”

McCormac said the location of Woodbridge within the outskirts of the Port of New York and New Jersey makes the township ripe for large warehouse projects.

“Warehouses are great for our township,” he said. “They employ a lot of our residents and, more importantly, they do not burden our school or municipal budgets. Their locations next to major highways mean that their vehicles can typically enter and exit Woodbridge without impacting our local road structure. Plus, they provide the millions of dollars necessary to keep our township moving forward.”

On a smaller scale, McCormac said the coming year will see new development taking place at the Syms site on King Georges Road; at the former Pathmark site in Hopelawn; on Route 1 North in Avenel at the Avenel and Americana motels; across Route 1 at the City Motel; at the Forge on Route 9 north; at the Jewelry Exchange in Woodbridge Center, and at Bayshore Recycling in Keasbey.

In addition, a new housing development will commence at the former Rug’s and Riffy’s Bar and Grill site along Rahway Avenue and at the Stern Tower site on Brook Street and will continue at The Grande in Iselin and at Falcon in Port Reading.

McCormac said the township is looking to complete the Hickory Senior Center in Fords as the township’s fourth location for seniors to gather, dance, eat, meet for bingo, sewing, puzzles and exercise. He said the site of the former Fords First Aid Squad has already been gutted and work will soon start on the renovations.

“We purchased the Fords Women’s Club building for parking for the Hickory Center and the ladies of the club will have dedicated space at specific times for their events and storage space for their teapots,” he said.

The township plans to open a Boy Scout and Girl Scout camping facility off Omar Avenue on land owned by the township.

The township also has interest in the former Mount Carmel School site on Smith Street and the home next door to it. Township officials have had discussions with the Diocese of Metuchen in the hopes of turning the buildings into another location for the Our House/Hope Autism Solutions partnership similar to the Cypress Recreation Center in the Port Reading section.

The Rahway Avenue site of the former home of the prison warden is fully framed-out for 100 apartments in the former Cedar Meadows, now The Greens at Avenel, the mayor said.

“We have committed to 25 apartments to be controlled by the state of New Jersey for the developmentally disabled population, not unlike the citizens who used to live right across the street in the Woodbridge Developmental Center,” he said. “And, we hope the other 75 apartments become home to other township residents with special needs.”

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