Evesham Township will give its school and fire districts some of the funds from the payments in lieu of taxes it collects from developers.
Township Council voted 5-0 Wednesday night to create a special fund that would get a share of annual PILOT fees and use the money for public safety projects in schools and in the fire district. The percentage of PILOT revenue going into the fund was not specified.
A PILOT agreement exempts a developer or business from property taxes imposed by schools, fire districts, municipalities or other taxing entities. In return, the developer or business makes annual payments instead of paying property taxes. In this case, the payment is based on a percentage of the apartments' revenue.
The vote came immediately after council members voted 5-0 to execute a PILOT agreement with Fieldstone Associates Limited Partnership in connection with the sale of the township public works yard on Evesboro-Medford Road to the developer that plans to build new apartments. The project would yield nearly $12 million in PILOT funds over 30 years.
Fieldstone would build up to 107 new apartments — including 16 set aside for affordable housing — on the 5.4-acre site it is buying for $1.52 million from the township. The site is bordered by the developer's existing Barclay Chase at Marlton apartment complex.
Deputy Mayor Heather Cooper praised the sale and the PILOT agreement, noting that under the township's ownership no taxes were collected on the property.
She said now the township will get income from the site and the deal encouraged development. "The land otherwise might have even remained vacant," Cooper said.
Council member Patricia Hansen said the Fieldstone deal "shows that we're trying to bring business into town. It's good for the development of the town."
The new PILOT fund for the school and fire districts, named the "Redevelopment Community Development Fund," was introduced by Mayor Jaclyn Veasy. Veasy and others emphasized establishing the fund was a first step and processes to grant funds now must be determined.
Veasy said the fund is intended to help "local agencies keep Evesham safe and secure."
Under state law, municipalities keep 95% of the PILOT payments and 5% goes to the county.
Once in the special fund, PILOT money would be used only for grants to the Evesham School District and the Evesham Fire District, Veasy said.
"Money from the fund can only be put toward public safety projects such as but not limited to funding for school resource officers, new personal protective equipment, building security upgrades, new safety apparatus or safety vehicles," she said. Unspent money in the fund at the end of a budget year would carry into the new budget year.
During the public hearing on the fund, Gary Warga of Barton Run Boulevard said he was not opposed to such a fund, but encouraged council members to "be transparent" about its use and include safeguards. He said the current council will not be in office forever and future councils may try to use the fund in different ways than originally intended.
"If used properly, hey, that's great, emergency funds," Warga said. "But I don't want a rainy day fund to turn into a secret slush fund. Trenton seems to like to do that. I hope you're not learning from Trenton. That's not a good way to go."
Evesham school board member Jeff Lanzilotta praised the idea of the PILOT fund, adding that "every little bit is going to help in the next couple of years."
"I'm delighted to know that these three different branches of government (can) work together in Evesham in order to support one another, have a relationship with one another and to build community to be a better place," he said.
Robert DiEnna, who served on Township Council until the end of 2020, urged the council to table the proposal until more details could be provided to the public.
"It just seems to me that this raises a lot of questions that perhaps haven't been answered," DiEnna said during the public hearing.