Letter to the Editor: Is Waterview Financially Good for Parsippany?

parsippany focus

lettersDear Editor:

On Tuesday, August 19, the Parsippany Council plans to finally introduce an ordinance to rezone the 27-acre “Waterview property” located on the corner of Route 46 and Intervale Road.  The rezone will permit commercial strip malls, big box retail and high-density residential townhouses to be built on the property.

The corporate developer, RDR Realty, has argued in favor of this rezoning saying that the economic benefit of the project outweighs the detriments.  In short, the development will result in the creation of 500 new jobs and increased tax revenues to the town of Parsippany.

There are many reasons why RDR’s argument may be faulty and as taxpayers, we’re entitled to some answers about the economics of this project.   Do you know why?  Because if their assumptions are not correct RD Realty will be off destroying someone else’s neighborhood and the taxpayers of Parsippany will be left paying the price in terms of higher taxes and more traffic.

We want an objective economic impact study funded by the developer.  The fact that one has not been shared while we rush to change the law to benefit RDR is unacceptable.  

Citizen’s Analysis Raises Many Red Flags About the Financial Value of Waterview.

Our grassroots organization, Citizens for Health, Safety and Welfare, has studied a number of likely economic impacts of this project and the analysis raises many red flags about the developer’s argument that the rezoning would be financially beneficial to Parsippany.

A study conducted by Rutgers University, entitled “The Myth of the Ratables,”clearly shows that  Morris County municipalities (including Parsippany) have historically pursued increased commercial development on the mistaken belief it would result in increased tax benefits (known as “ratables”) to the towns.  In fact, this type of development has not been shown to lower resident’s tax burden.  Why?  Because municipalities fail to properly anticipate the true long-term costs associated with large development.  In the case of Waterview, those long-term costs will primarily be education and infrastructure.

One Red Flag is the High Probability That More Students Than Anticipated Will Enter Our District – Raising the Overall Project Cost.

The developer has argued that their proposed development will only add 14 new students to the Parsippany school system.  This assumption stems from the construction of 65 new townhomes that will sell for $500K.  What’s the risk with this assumption?  A July 2013 real estate analysis showed that similar 3-bedroom units in Parsippany are selling for $415K.  These lower priced real estate comparables come equipped with luxury features like pools and clubhouses.  By contrast, RD Realty’s proposed townhouses do not have any luxury amenities and are located directly behind the backside garbage alley of a Target!

Let’s assume the units ultimately sell for a more reasonable price of about $400K each.  What are the tax and cost implications for Parsippany?  For starters, the developer will not make his profit and may plead hardship to increase the number of units to be built.  Secondly, Parsippany will not make the anticipated taxes on these properties.  Thirdly, the lower price could attract younger families with potentially more young children.  Lastly, we haven’t even included the cost of new children brought into the region by employees of the retail big box and strip mall.  Given that it costs taxpayers $14,500 for each student in the District, any of these potential changes that increase the number of students would have a devastating impact on the project’s financial assumptions.

For a recent example in which things don’t work out the way the developer planned, look no further than Fanny Road and Morris Avenue in Mountain Lakes.  The original concept for this condo development has changed many times over the last 8 years.  Net result:  more units at a price half the original estimate and less tax money for Mountain Lakes.

What’s the bottom line?  DO NOT BELIEVE that just because a developer says it can be done means it will happen.

Waterview rezoning will clearly be an economic boon for the developer.  But what about the residents of Parsippany? 

There are too many questions that need to be answered before we can rush through a vote on rezoning.

We need your voice.  Come to the Parsippany Hills High School, 20 Rita Drive, on Tuesday, August 19 and ask questions.

Citizens for Health, Safety & Welfare
 John Beehler, Parsippany
Len Cipkens, Parsippany
Dave Kaplan, Parsippany
Dick Young, Parsippany
Jackie Bay, Mountain Lakes
Nancy du Tertre, Mountain Lakes
Gretchen Fry, Mountain Lakes
Margaret Gossett, Mountain Lakes
Ron Owens, Mountain Lakes