West Deptford OKs $32.4 Million in Settlements on Eagle Point Refinery

Two deals with Sunoco and Coastal/El Paso passed by a 3-2 margin Tuesday night.

Twenty-four years of tax appeals over the could be resolved within six weeks, after the West Deptford township committee approved a pair of deals totaling $32.4 million Tuesday night in a 3-2, party-line vote to settle appeals with the two owners involved.

The decision played out much as it did last month, before with Sunoco , as Democrats Denice DiCarlo and Donna Szymborski called for more information and more negotiations on the deal, before being overridden by the Republican majority, which pushed for the deal ahead of another possible court date—this time, a state tax court hearing slated for June 4.

“I believe this settlement is a good alternative—a prudent alternative,” committeeman Sam Cianfarini said. “I will not jeopardize the people of West Deptford.”

The settlement with Sunoco, which covers eight years, actually represents a reduction from the original agreement, down to $13.9 million, while the Coastal/El Paso portion totals $18.5 million, and covers 16 years of appeals.

As Cianfarini pointed out in a rehash of , the settlements have the backing of the township’s professionals, and could save taxpayers millions, based on scenarios projecting the township’s tax liability up to $90 million.

Settling would avoid that worst-case scenario, Cianfarini said, and limit the hit to homeowners in the form of property tax increases, which he said would be limited to less than $100 per year, assuming a 1-percent increase in property values over the course of the bond funding the tax refunds.

And with the set to spin up its turbines and begin producing power in 2014, the increased Payments in Lieu of Taxes program from the power plant could zero out the hit from Eagle Point, Cianfarini said.

“That LS Power payment would pay for this entire settlement,” he said.

But DiCarlo raised long-term concerns both over the agreed value of the property set by the settlement—$100 million for the entire 1,180-acre complex, versus the $153.5 million assessment by the county—as well as the distribution of value over the property, which is split across about a dozen lots, plus the 225-megawatt cogeneration plant.

“I have yet to see one valuation opinion,” she said.

The $100 million assessment would cut Sunoco’s taxes on Eagle Point down to about $2.4 million, going by the current tax rate.

Township administrator Eric Campo said the settlement specifies values for each of the separate lots on the property, including a portion allotted to the power plant, which .

The $100 million assessment would be locked in through the end of 2013, but would revert to normal assessment after that, potentially opening up the property to more appeals a little more than a year and a half from now—coincidentally, .

But Cianfarini said it’s also possible the value of the property could increase, given possible plants for expansion at the site by Sunoco Logistics, the pipeline and storage arm of the company, which .

“They want to make more investment in that area,” Cianfarini said.

While the pieces are in place, the settlements are far from done, however. The deals will need to pass muster with the state Local Finance Board (LFB) next month, and the second reading of the bond ordinance to fund the $32.4 million will need to pass by a supermajority of the board—meaning at least one of the two Democrats who opposed the settlements will have to switch to a yes vote.

There’s some question about when that second reading of the bond ordinance will happen, as well. Campo said a date hinges on approval from the LFB, but could happen either at a special meeting at the end of May or one of the regular June meetings.

“We can’t set a date tonight,” Campo said.

Mayor Ray Chintall said he hopes something can be done to convince one of the Democrats to come on board and vote to approve the bond ordinance when it comes up for a second vote.

“There is still time to think about it,” he said.

Ernest Kraus April 18, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Four professionals have recommended the settlement; one of them being the lawyer that would appear to gain financially was this to continue. Ms. DiCarlo seems to suffer from what has been termed the analyses of paralysis; the over analyzing which lets one state that they need one more piece of evidence to act. What one more piece of evidence does she need to come out of her paralytic state? What type of personal liability insurance is carried by Ms. DiCarlo and Ms? Szymborski that will indemnify the township should the case go to trail and the court decide in favor of Sunoco and Coastal/El Paso? Both are betting the come line and none of the casinos in Atlantic City were built with the intention of gamblers winning.
Ken April 19, 2012 at 05:08 PM
For years the "professionals" have "advised us" not to settle, and we listened. Now you say to listen blindly because a republican committee and their professionals said it was the way to go. And i know i will be accused of being a part of " the machine" however i am not, i am only interested in getting the correct information from everyone.
WDNeedsHelp April 23, 2012 at 03:01 PM
ken, your facts as usual are incorrect. The lawyer who has handled this case for the Dems stood up in the meeting and said "the stars have aligned" and it was prudent to settle. The Dems at the County were the ones who created this mess with their "over-assessing" of properties and it continues even today. Business owners are massing legal teams to sue the crap out of them because they are doubling and tripling their assessments. Wake up taxpayers, the County and it's Dem stranglehold on West Deptford has driven this town to the brink. The new Republican committee ( let 's not forget that not a single one of them has been your so-called "politicians" prior to their current seats so I doubt their intentions are "political" unless you have documented proof otherwise.
Ken April 23, 2012 at 03:11 PM
You are correct that is what he said and that is what i said in a previous comment. what you are repling to is a reply i made about why this was drug out so long. and as far as the assesments i absolutly agree. All of the propperties have been over assessed for years, and now we will be paying it back. i don't believe it was any one party. i believe it was a following of the bankers over valueing propperties to subsadize loans.
John Hayden April 24, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Don't believe it was any one party? Ken, the Democrats have controlled everything in WD, Gloucester County, and the whole State for decades. I'm not sure how you can blame anyone else. Now, that's not to say that the Republicans have been without their faults. When the GOP did control NJ 20 years ago, they advanced the liberal agenda/policies even more than the Dems did. This state needs an injection of true conservatism (not "neo-conservatism" that G.W. Bush pushed; neo-conservatism = liberalism) to bring it back from the brink. We'll see if Sam and Ray are that injection; so far, Christie really hasn't been.


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