In an effort to raise the rateable base of Manchester, the township's planning board will ask the council if there are ways to encourage business growth.
Following a $115 million drop in rateables in 2011 after five senior community cooperatives won tax appeals, planning board Chairman James Vaccaro said that he wants to find ways to draw businesses — and tax money — into town as another drop in 2012 looms.
"If we don't become proactive, I think we'll be paying taxes at a considerable amount for many years," he said.
The deadline to file tax appeals was April 2. Tax assessor Martin Lynch said that, once all are counted, the township expects "close to 2,000" tax appeals for 2012. In 2011, 785 appeals were filed, Lynch said.
In an effort to reduce the amount of appeals going forward, a town-wide reassessment will be completed for the 2013 tax cycle and Lynch will update property values on a yearly basis.
It is still to early to offer a monetary estimate what the drop in rateables will be for 2012, Lynch said, though he did note that "it's going to be significant."
Vaccaro and the board plan to the township council, and in turn the township planner, to "expand the definition of permitted business uses," he said. "Thus, we would increase our commercial rateables along the corridors of Routes 37 and 70 and other designated commercial areas."
Board members this week agreed with Vaccaro's call to action, which he said would help to bring "quality, permitted business to come into the town."
"I feel the township will benefit financially. Our citizens will be able to purchase locally without having to travel great distances," he said. More business could also make Manchester "a catalyst for stimulating local job creation."
The planning board will write a letter to the township council asking them to bring the issue to the attention of Township Planner Tom Thomas. The board cannot directly ask to utilize Thomas' services because of the fee involved, Coordinator Marianne Borthwick said.
"[The board] just wants to take a look at what's in town and see what changes can be made," she said.
Easing zoning restrictions could make it easier for businesses to come into town. For example, the Fit Golf Range on Route 37 is located in a zone where it is not permitted but was grandfathered in, Vaccaro said. Going before the zoning board for a variance is a hassle that may deter new businesses from entering Manchester.
"It's a shame that they go to other communities to do business," Vaccaro said.
Environmental issues are another issue that will come into play that may make building along the state highways more difficult, said Township Engineer Albert Yodakis.
Even if more business uses are permitted, planning board and township council member Frederick Trutkoff worried that the economic downturn will mean that businesses simply cannot afford to open.
"I don't know if [zoning changes] will really encourage that right now," he said.