Payment In Lieu of Tax agreements have come under fire in recent years. Some residents fear they put a heavier burden on their own property taxes, while others suspect they deprive the Montclair School District of a necessary revenue source.
Now another "Payment In Lieu Of" program may catch on in Montclair, and its supporters see it as a valuable tool for managing the supposed dearth of public parking, a topic that far surpasses PILOT deals in the volume of public complaints.
In a 70-page Parking Management Plan submitted to the township by Nelson Nygaard consultants, Payment In Lieu of Parking programs are described as agreements in which developers could pay the township a fee rather than build on-site parking for their buildings as required by zoning standards.
While it seems counter-intuitive to solve a parking crisis by allowing developers to build new housing without providing parking for it, Thomas Brown, a principal at Nelson Nygaard who drafted the management plan, says the deals fund and encourage the construction of larger off-site shared parking structures that would meet the needs of new developments as well as providing more options to the general public and other businesses.
In an email to The Montclair Times, Brown stated, "Part of what makes a PILOP so effective is that it shifts parking from private facilities that only benefit on-site uses, to share/public facilities that benefit all uses in the area."
According to Township Planner Janice Talley, the PILOPs won't encourage developers to skirt parking requirements.
That's something they have been doing already.
"Most of the applications before the Planning Board require parking variances, and have been for 20 years," said Talley.
Under Brown's suggestion, the township could charge developers a flat $5,000 fee in lieu of onsite parking, with an additional $1,000 for each required parking space not provided.
Hence, a development that would be required to supply 20 onsite spaces, as per current zoning, could instead pay the township $25,000.
"This gives places like Montclair time to accumulate funding for strategically-located municipal parking facilities that accommodate demand, not only from the development that helped fund them, but also all surrounding land uses," Brown stated.
The second concept at play is that the PILOPs' incremental fee system would incentivize smaller developments that couldn't ordinarily meet parking requirements on their limited lots, while discouraging larger developments from skirting the requirement due to the cost of not providing parking onsite.
Talley said that the township had been considering PILOPs for a number of years, but with Brown's suggestion of a vertically integrated Municipal Parking Utility, the plan finally makes sense.
When the study's results were presented to the Township Council at the end of July, Adam Gibson of Kimley-Horn, a second consulting firm that helped draft the Parking Management Plan, stressed the importance of creating a self-sustaining parking utility, under which all revenue is allocated back into the utility, rather than the township's general coffers.
A perfect example of this being PILOPs, whereby parking facilities create the funds necessary for their own expansions, maintenance and enforcement.
"We recommended a very similar PILOP approach to Metuchen, NJ where it was implemented and is already providing their parking authority with resources for any future supply expansion they may need," stated Brown.
Third Ward Councilmember Sean Spiller, whose ward includes the Montclair Center Business Improvement District, an area consistently cited in the argument that Montclair significantly lacks public parking, said that he wished Brown's plan provided more details on the matter, including information on how the program has been implemented in other municipalities, but that he's open to the idea.
"I certainly would not be one to say, 'Oh, no, that's out,'" Spiller said regarding PILOPS, and added that acting Township Manager Tim Stafford has recruited a team to review Brown's plan in depth, and will report back to the council with its opinions.
Email: [email protected]
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