To the Editor:
The economic consequences of Princeton HealthCare’s contract with AvalonBay include a huge fiscal impact on Princeton municipal government and the taxpayers. The loss of expected tax revenues will increasingly be felt. This deadweight exceeds AvalonBay’s crippling refusal to permit local retail shops along Witherspoon Street and its misguided insistence on building an obsolete structure without solar paneling (and thus passing on, without regard for social justice, higher utility costs to its renters, including those in the 20 percent affordable units).
Why will this happen? Barry Rabner of Princeton HealthCare recklessly chose to sign a contract with the one
corporate developer who was almost guaranteed not to build according to the Master Plan and Borough Code, which prohibit any “private gated community.” AvalonBay, nationwide, builds only “Private Communities,” according to corporate policy. The company has thus run into powerful opposition from Princeton community members who scorn the fortress-effect and deplore the loss of publicly usable open space even while supporting rental housing and 20 percent affordable housing.
The consequence of Mr. Rabner’s deeply misguided choice is that AvalonBay’s application is likely to end up in court, further delaying (for how long, no one can guess) a settling of the contingency contract — at which time the developer will begin paying property taxes. No one can know, today, who will appeal.
That’s only part of the story. As Town Topics readers know from earlier letters to the editor, AvalonBay retains the Property Tax Assistance (PTA) company to represent them in gaining property tax reductions from municipalities. A PTA brochure lists AvalonBay as its chief client and boasts that “Since 1992, we have reduced their tax liability by nearly 30 percent” for AvalonBay properties in California and Washington (document available from Daniel A. Harris). AvalonBay’s projected taxes for the old Princeton Borough were estimated at between $3.7 million and $4 million dollars. Deduct 25 percent (conservatively). You get $3 million dollars in much-needed revenue — from a company that intends to haggle.
Of course the hospital never paid taxes as a non-profit organization. Its taxes since June 2012, if any, are unknown. Though Princeton has survived, any new taxes will be a plus, even if wrenched downwards by AvalonBay’s PTA crew. But the unpredictable delay resulting from judicial appeal is detrimental to the fiscal health of Princeton’s future, and so is any future conflict with AvalonBay as corporate taxpayer. The entire Borough as well as the old hospital’s neighborhood will feel increasingly cheated by Princeton HealthCare and by Mr. Rabner in particular.
Is there a solution to this problem that would preserve the integrity of all parties?
While we wait: since there is no desired revenue stream at hand, the Board should vote for the best urban planning it can get — surely not AvalonBay’s behemoth.
The Planning Board should vote its conscience.