Township council moves forward with property tax agreements

Three businesses are in rehabilitation zones and agreed to property improvements

Monroe Township Council passed six ordinances on first reading at its meeting last Monday, including those to approve property tax agreements with three local businesses.

The three property tax agreements on the agenda were between the township and Autumn Lake Winery, Grindstone restaurant and Best Western Monroe Inn and Suites. All three businesses are located in rehabilitation zones within the town.

The agreements include tax exemptions in exchange for improvements at each of the three businesses. The agreements with Best Western and Autumn Lake Winery are similar, with no tax payments on the “project improvements” in the first year of the agreement, followed by “100 percent of otherwise applicable taxes” on the improvements in years two through five, according to the ordinances.

The agreement with Grindstone restaurant has a different structure, with no tax payments in year one, followed by 20 percent in year two, 40 percent in year three, 60 percent in year four and 80 percent in year five. Grindstone is one of the township’s newest businesses, having opened as a tapas restaurant in November of last year.

Specifics on the project improvements on each of the three properties are included in the tax exemption agreements. All three agreements are subject to the township solicitor’s review and approval.

Among the other three ordinances passed on first reading is one to establish a two-year, trap-neuter-vaccinate-release (TNVR) pilot program. TNVR programs legislate the humane trapping of feral cats in the township. The cats are then spayed or neutered, given their vaccinations and then returned to the area where they were originally found.

Monroe Township’s proposed ordinance establishes the guidelines for the pilot program, including the management of community cat colonies and  regulations community cat caregivers must follow.

After the action portion of the meeting, several members of council gave updates on various projects going on in town. Councilwoman Katherine Falcone discussed the possibility of a new grocery store moving into town. Lidl, a German-based supermarket chain with stores in Cherry Hill and Vineland, has expressed interest in a Monroe location. Falcone said while discussions are “in the preliminary stages,” representatives from Lidl discussed possibly opening a store at the intersection of the Black Horse Pike and Lake Avenue in a recent conference call involving Monroe Township community development.

“We’re excited to see if that moves anywhere going forward,” Falcone said.

Monroe Township Police Chief James DeHart gave a brief update on COVID-19 totals during his report at the end of the meeting. The chief said while case totals across New Jersey have seen a marked drop in recent weeks, residents shouldn’t let up their guard yet.

“We are still behind North Jersey a little bit,” DeHart said. “I definitely see some improvement, but last week was the highest week for cases in Monroe Township.”

Mayor Richard DiLucia complimented residents for taking the pandemic seriously, saying he’s pleased to see them socially distancing and wearing masks in public. He also applauded the township’s employees for their work over the previous two months.

“You’ve been great through this,” DiLucia said, speaking to the community at the meeting. “You’ve been obeying the directives of the governor and our OEM coordinator.

“I’d like to commend the employees of our town for coming to work every day in the face of what we all know is possible danger, “ the mayor added, “particularly the sanitation department, who is picking up our trash and picking up our garbage and the recyclables.”

The next Monroe Township Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 26.