Camden city council puts brakes on 20-year tax abatement agreement... for now

Camden’s plan to grant a developer a 20-year tax abatement contract was put on hold Tuesday after some city council members raised questions on the financial impact on the city.

“I make decisions based on information I have,” said city councilman Brian Coleman, adding that he had not received requested information on the developer’s contract with HUD or an impact study.

Councilman Luis Lopez also joined Coleman in asking City Attorney Marc Riondino to provide impact studies on all existing and proposed Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreements.

Roizman Development of Plymouth Meeting is seeking a 20-year PILOT for 175 low-income properties it plans to rehabilitate in Camden's Lanning Square and Bergen Square neighborhood. Camden City Council approved an ordinance on first reading in March to grant Broadway Townhouses the PILOT agreement, which the company said would put at least $175,000 a year in city coffers. The developer is the same behind the Camden Townhouses, which had the $1 homes deal dismissed in court last year (Read HERE for background).

On Tuesday, during the back and forth questioning with Coleman, Riondino said that the PILOT would bring in more revenue for the city than what it is currently getting from the developer.

Last year the city received $74,000 of the total $144,000 that Broadway Townhouses paid in taxes; the rest was divided between the school district and the county, officials said. But some residents countered exactly that point. A PILOT does not provide money to the school district or the county, as regular taxes do.

“We build family project but we don’t support the Board of Education because developers are not paying into the school system,” said Bryan Morton, whose wife Felicia Reyes-Morton is a school board member.

Another resident, Kelly Francis, said that Cherry Hill can afford tax abatement projects such as the one Roizman is proposing but not Camden.

“Camden is bankrupt and it has been for 40 years,” Francis said. “This only puts us deeper and deeper.”

The ordinance will be brought back for a vote once council members receive their requested information, possibly for the next May 14 meeting. For further background on the proposed deal, read my previous article on the matter.