LB Mayor: I understand MTOTSA on tax abatements

By Neil Schulman

Long Branch — The new administration will continue to grant tax abatements for developments in the Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue neighborhoods.

In April, John Pallone, then a councilman, and Councilwoman Dr. Mary Jane Celli voted against granting a five-year tax abatement to a proposed development on Marine Terrace. (It still passed, with the other three council members voting in favor of it.)

Since then, Pallone was elected mayor, and Celli is the sole returning councilperson, running with Pallone’s team, which swept the elections. Pallone and Celli had run on a campaign platform which accused the previous administration of providing too many tax breaks to oceanfront development.

At the July 11 City Council meeting, the first since Pallone was sworn in as mayor, Ocean Terrace resident Lori Ann Vendetti said she was “looking forward to a new start in Long Branch,” but had concerns about Pallone and Celli’s previous vote.

Vendetti was a member of MTOTSA, a group of Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue residents who filed a suit against the city in the 2000s over its use of eminent domain to redevelop the neighborhood. As part of a 2009 settlement, the city agreed to allow property owners who developed the neighborhood a five-year tax abatement.

She noted this was much smaller than the 30-year abatement that Pier Village Phase III had received, and the city had signed the agreement for this nearly a decade ago.

She said she wanted the council to understand the history of the situation.

“There’s going to be other property owners coming for that,” she said. “These people are entitled to it.”

Pallone said that he has learned more about the MTOTSA area since he made that vote.

“Since then, we’ve received a lot more information,” he said. “We understand exactly your position.”

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In other redevelopment news, during the workshop portion of the meeting, council heard from developers for the Stavola Property on Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue, who are seeking ordinances adjusting the right-of-ways in the area as part of an already approved plan.

The developers plan to build a dozen luxury houses on the property, and says that getting these right-of-ways will allow it to make improvements to the roadways and parking in the area.

Developers said that work on the public properties would come first, because homes will be built to purchasers specifications, and that could take some time. Homes will be customized, but within a set of architectural guidelines the city has already approved.

The minimum lot size for these properties is 3,000-4,000 square feet. Some will be larger.

Attorney Pat McNamara, representing the developers, said they predict the impact on the school systems will be “pretty minimal.” If people live in these homes year-round, demographics suggest they will likely only have two or three children. It’s also possible these will be used as summer homes since they are so close to the ocean.

Each home will have its own driveway and garage for parking.