Florence council approves tax abatement with Burlington Stores

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The Florence Township Council passed an ordinance to approve a long-term tax abatement for the expansion of the Burlington Stores corporate headquarters along Route 130.

The decision from the council came at a June 5 meeting to approve an $18.8 million payment-in-lieu-taxes (PILOT) agreement over the course of 30 years with Burlington Stores.

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Burlington stores plan to construct a 217,000-square-foot addition to its existing corporate offices on Route 130.

Township officials said that this is the third tax break given to the company in their ongoing efforts to construct their corporate office expansion. Burlington Stores received approval from the township planning board in February for the project, which will nearly double the company’s existing office space.

At a May 15 council meeting, Florence Township Administrator Richard Brook explained that the proposed ordinance would make a financial adjustment in the municipality’s agreement with the applicant in regards to the taxes being paid on the property.

After the applicant had first built its headquarter for the Burlington Stores in the township in 2014, the company entered into a “Phase II Expansion” plan to construct a second office building last year.

The planning board passed a resolution on March 26 for preliminary and final major site plans for the construction of additional corporate offices, parking and an interconnection between Florence Township and Burlington Township along Route 130.

An additional 700-800 employees are anticipated to be hired at the site and approximately 2,000 parking spaces are to be added given the growing needs of the applicant’s expansion. Officials also said that the expansion of the building’s headquarters is anticipated to create 250-300 construction jobs as well.

Township officials said that the expansion construction is expected to cost $40 million and that without the tax exemption, the applicant will not proceed with the project. According to the approved legislation, the township said that the current state of the economy and costs to highway access improvements do not support the development costs at the applicant’s desired scale.

Given the applicant’s extensive costs, township officials entered into a PILOT agreement with the applicant, which they said felt is aimed to benefit both parties.

“The best part about a tax abatement is that it’s a guaranteed payment to the community for however many number of agreed years,” said Florence Township Mayor Craig Wilkie. “We are required to collect the money and make sure the taxpayers get paid, but if we don’t get paid, we got to pick up the money someplace else. With the PILOT agreements, it allows us to turn around and have a guarantee that we will have minimal payments and in our agreements, if the value of their property goes up, they will pay us more.

“But, if the value of their property goes down, they still have to make the payments that they agreed to, so it’s a win-win for the township,” Wilkie added.

Although officials said that the tax abatement is intended to benefit the township as well as Burlington Stores, PILOT agreements can potentially lessen the amount of tax revenues paid back to taxpayers in the community, especially the school district and fire district.

Given the amount of revenue allocated away from these two particular sources, Wilkie said that the municipality worked with both groups to suffice the matter.

“When we were getting our first PILOTS in 2012, I worked with the fire district and school district and explained the process of how this was beneficial to the community,” he said. “Then, we continued our partnership. The school district has recently completed their five-year plans, so the town can consider what additional funding they can provide.”

Wilkie reported that the township plans to help to cover the cost of a second full-time school resource officer at the schools as well as the purchase of additional equipment for the fire district.

“As long as the township is being cooperative and working with them, that’s the positive,” he said. “You can’t ‘not’ work together. We are one community.”

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