Pat Walsh - On Tax
South Jersey Letters
Opposition is Alive!
Pat Walsh's letter to the Inquirer questioning the Voorhees tax abatement program and challenging the comments of Committee.
In an April 24 article, Jeffery Beenstock, an attorney for Voorhees, said there was no public interest in the commercial tax-abatement issue beyond that of Marco Agostini, the plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the township's authority to grant such abatements.
This is simply not true. Voorhees residents have spoken against the abatements at several Township Committee meetings.
The environmental community in Voorhees has expressed concern about a program that offers incentives to build on undeveloped land, in light of a referendum showing voter support for preserving open space in the township.
Ron Richards, a former Township Committee member, has publicly expressed his opposition to the program. Frank Sansone, a current member of the committee, stated in a public debate before November's election that the abatements were not needed in Voorhees at the time.
Committeeman Harry Platt said Voorhees had to use tax abatements because "every town around us has it." Nonsense. Of the towns cited in the article, only Gloucester Township has an abatement program and also could be considered to be in competition with Voorhees for development.
Cherry Hill does not have a five-year tax abatement program for commercial developers. Collingswood and Audubon are smaller, fully developed towns with problems different from those in Voorhees, and they are not competitors for development.
The five-year tax abatement program was established by the legislature to help declining communities "in need of rehabilitation." It was not intended to allow affluent, growing suburbs to (in the words of Committeeman Craig Reider) "cherry pick good ratables."
Moreover, the committee's slavish pursuit of ratables is shortsighted; it ignores studies showing that, in the long run, further development increases the tax burden on residents owing to pollution, traffic, and the need for extra municipal services.
I hope Agostini prevails in his challenge, but regardless of the outcome of his suit, it's time to revoke the tax-abatement program in Voorhees.