South Toms River Mayor Will Not Sign Deal For 390 Residential Units
(South Toms River, NJ)- Mayor Greg Handshy announced he will not sign a proposed settlement agreement with a developer, despite the Borough council’s approval, because the agreement would authorize the construction of 360 high-density housing units in the Borough, and would give the developer special tax breaks. The Mayor’s refusal to sign the agreement will block, at least temporarily, the controversial development project from moving forward.
Handshy said, “I won’t sign a deal that’s bad for our town, and this deal is terrible. The Council wants to give the developer the right to build 360 high-density units we don’t want, along with 30 additional affordable units. They also want to give the developer a tax break so he won’t have to pay property taxes like the rest of us for the next 30 years.”
The Council’s proposed agreement would authorize a private developer, M&T at STR Urban Renewal LLC, to build 360 market-rate apartments, behind the Wawa in town. Additionally, the agreement would give away Borough-owned land to the developer for the construction of 30 additional affordable housing units, at no cost to the developer. The proposed agreement authorizes a special tax break, called a PILOT, which means the town would not collect full property or school taxes on the new housing units.
The Republican Council voted to approve the proposed agreement at their meeting on August 24, 2020. The mayor, a Democrat who has long opposed the development, has refused to sign it. Without Mayor Handshy’s signature, the deal cannot go through.
Handshy’s supporters backed the mayor’s refusal to sign. “If Democrats had a majority on the council, this deal never would have passed,” says Council candidate Jameal Calhoun.
Democratic candidate for Council George Rutzler added: “This deal gives the developer a 30-year tax break. The council can’t even give us an estimate on how much it will cost residents, because they don’t even know. But every penny of that money comes out of the pockets of our taxpayers.”
After he initially raised concerns about the proposed deal, Handshy says he received pushback from the town’s attorney. “She threatened to go to court and legally force me to sign what is clearly a terrible deal,” Handshy said. “I don’t care. I will not be bullied into breaking my promise to our residents. I will not turn South Toms River into a giveaway for developers who want to build hundreds of rental apartments without paying their fair share of property taxes.”
Handshy pointed out, “If you look at the data, the housing in our town is mostly affordable, I know we could have done better in negotiating our affordable housing obligations. This is a bad deal.”