Just how much financial "risk" accrues to any single taxpayer through the Township's issuance of $6.3 Million in general obligation bonds in support of the project?
Not very much at all, really.
First the township bonding authority is detailed in state law, with the allowable value of bonds a municipality can issue predicated on its total assessed property value.
At present, the township has outstanding bond obligations equal to less than 1/3 of its total bonding authority and enjoys an excellent credit rating; the issuance of $6.3 Million in bonds would not adversely effect either.
If however the absolute worst case scenario were to come about ... Edison Village/Prism goes belly up, they can't make their payments, can't sell and/or we get tied up for years in litigation to collect monies due ... here's what the effect would be on the typical taxpayer:
1. If the Township decided to retire the bonds with a one-time assessment (unlikely): a one-time payment of $350 for every property owner (+/- 18,000)
2. If the Township decided to repay the bonds over their 30 year term (likely): an annual payment of $24 per year for 30 years for every property owner (+/- 18,000)
Those are pretty big "ifs" and given something that the people putting $250 million into Main Street aren't about to let that happen very easily.
Still, redevelopment is a complicated process and missing from the most recent debate is a summary of things decided years ago for reasons that color the entire project.
Why formal redevelopment and tax incentives are necessary here is because the parcel is not conducive for fully private investment without them.
Like it or not, the battery factory has historic significance as status as such been given it by both the state and federal governments.
Second, the building itself is made of Edison's own design and using his proprietary formula for concrete and will likely outlast the pyramids of Egypt; if it could be demolished (and it can't, see preceding point) the cost would be extraordinary and prohibitive.
Last, because the property was an industrial site long before environmental concerns were on anyone's radar screen, the property required substantial site remediation (already accomplished) overseen by the DEP.
What all of this means is that redeveloping this property will require an investment of +/- $112 Million to construct a complex that will have an assessed value of $80 Million.
Can anyone get a (legitimate) mortgage on a home equal to 40% more than its value?
No, and investors aren't lining up to back such a project without some incentive that makes it palatable and that incentive is the PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) Program and willingness to assist with providing advantageous financing of $6.3 Million (the bond) for infrastructure and public amenities.
This dynamic would apply to any investor and to whatever fanciful alternative uses one might think preferable, as those that were willing to make the investment agreed on one point: a mixed use (commercial-residential) is what was appropriate for the site.
That people are willing to turn their nose up at a $250 million investment in our community ... in the face of risk so small as to be non-existent ... is simply mind boggling to me; particularly given this debate has gone on for 50 years.