The national chain’s location at the Gloucester Premium Outlets is the first in South Jersey. It opened the Monday before the meeting; its original opening date was planned for earlier this year, before COVID-19 caused the closings of indoor dining establishments.
The tax abatement proposal was approved by a 5-0 vote during the meeting, but was met with questions and feedback from concerned residents, raising the issue of whether other portions of the township could benefit more from the use of tax abatements.
Resident Pete Krug, who was not present at the previous meeting when the tax abatement passed on first reading, questioned why similar actions are not being taken in areas such as downtown Blackwood.
“Obviously large corporations are going to look towards an open space similar to where they are, because they need parking and it’s easier for them to build their new facilities,” Krug maintained. “It’s much more difficult to take existing space, like we have in downtown Blackwood, and get businesses into those buildings and have those rehabbed.
“If we were able to divert attention to specific areas within the township through these tax abatements,” he added, “I actually do think that’s quite a good idea.”
Residents made similar comments at council’s Nov. 23 meeting, questioning why a tax abatement was necessary for the new Dave & Buster’s.
According to Business Administrator Tom Cardis, the tax abatement will allow the restaurant to pay no property tax the first year of its operation, followed by 30 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent and 90 percent of taxes in subsequent years, then the full amount starting in the sixth year.
Pulled from the agenda during the meeting was a resolution of support for the township’s redevelopment partner, Syncarpha Capital, as it seeks to build a solar field at the Gems Landfill. The resolution would have been attached to the redeveloper’s solar application.
Resident Ray Polidoro asked council during the meeting about the resolution, and if any specific financial information can currently be made public. The agenda item will be discussed at council’s next session.
According to Solicitor David Carlamere, the resolution was not prepared by him or the business administrator’s office, leading council to pull it in order to request more information.
“The only reason it’s being pulled is because we wanted a better understanding of what we’re supporting,” said Carlamere.
Resident Sam Sweet also inquired about more information regarding the resolution. He stated during public comment that residents have been told of a potential solar field at the location for years, and he questioned why the project has taken so long to be approved.
“I’ve been hearing of solar panels (coming to) Gems Landfill since 2010 … What’s taking so long?” Sweet asked.
Carlamere said the project has never been nixed; the township is leasing the land to the redeveloper for the solar panel project, leading Syncarpha Capital to garner appropriate funding and approvals.
According to Cardis, the project is a 4.5-megawatt solar project; his understanding is that the redeveloper is awaiting final approval from the Department of Public Utilities.
Also during the meeting, Krug requested more information regarding an agenda item that allowed the Gloucester Township Police Department to access the 1033 program through the Department of Defense. It allows police departments across the country to acquire out-of-use equipment, furniture, vehicles and other items.
Krug pointed out that armored security vehicles and mine-resistant vehicles would then be able to be acquired by the police department.
“I’m wondering why those would be necessary to have in our township,” he said.
Police Chief David Harkins said passing the resolution would allow the department to look at available equipment; the township would still need to approve any items police would seek to acquire.
Any vehicles the department might receive would be free.
Harkins said the last time the department’s bulletproof, armored rescue truck was utilized was approximately two months ago, when the department responded to a man in crisis who was throwing Molotov cocktails and knives from an apartment building.
Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 28.