John Reynolds | CNBNews
I used to drive past farmland going to work everyday. Watching geese flying over the meadow and deer coming out in the morning to feed was a refreshing break from the monotonous string of developments and strip malls we normally encounter in Camden County.
Ten years ago, a Cooper Hospital non-profit subsidiary purchased the 55 acre property, located off the Route 42 Camden County College exit. They planned on opening medical offices, but after zoning changes, the land was designated a redevelopment zone, allowing Cooper to use a municipal tax abatement and a potential PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) to attract commercial development. I'm not sure why Cooper Hospital is in the commercial real estate business, or why pristine land located along a major highway connecting Philadelphia and the South Jersey shore needs taxpayer subsidization, but then Cooper is involved.
The former farmland will be the future site of the Gloucester Township Premium Outlet Mall. It will merchandise the latest designer fashions and accessories, and according to our elected officials, it will kick-start an economic revival in the area.
For-sale signs and vacant buildings have been littering the Black Horse Pike and Blackwood-Clementon Road for years; homes are currently listing from 30 to 50 percent below their assessed value; rental properties and crime are on the rise; and the schools are sinking in the state rankings. Things are looking bleak in Gloucester Township – the only businesses that have been opening up are lottery ticket and check cashing services, an off-track betting operation, and storefront churches.
Meanwhile, my tax bill arrived in the mail with a 6.5 percent increase. 42 percent of our tax goes to the schools, but unfortunately, the Gloucester Township Premium Outlet Mall will not be contributing anything. And if the developers apply for a PILOT and our council approves it, the premium strip mall will not be paying any taxes. With the extra traffic, policing, and other costs involved in peddling high-end Calvin Klein and Gucci accoutrements, who will benefit from this besides Cooper, the people connected to the deal, and maybe some well-heeled shoppers on the way to the shore?
And where's the money the residents of Gloucester Township were supposed to save after the township installed $20 million dollars worth of energy-efficient solar panels last year – that our elected officials said wouldn't cost anything – and from the Red Light Cameras strung out on Blackwood-Clementon Road that have been sucking in millions of dollars?
I'm now paying $5,000 dollars a year in tax for a 1320 square foot townhouse with a market value of maybe $95,000 – if I can find a buyer. That comes to 5% per year of market value. For comparison, my friend's 2600 square foot house in Cherry Hill has a market value of $260,00, and he pays $10,000 in tax. That's just under 4% per year of market value. As a consolation, Cherry Hill's schools are among the top in the state. And the taxes for 1600 to 1800 square foot homes in Atlantic County, where we're looking to move, come out to around 2.5% per year of market value, and they also have better schools – and less corruption.
In Gloucester Township, we're paying Gucci prices for Kmart quality. Anyone looking for a deal on a house? I'll throw in a $400 dollar pair of Abercrombie and Fitch sunglasses.
I graduated from Gloucester Catholic in '72 and live in Gloucester Township. If I offended anyone, feel free to unload on my blog