By JOHN T. WARD
A year after authorizing a law firm to go after owners of properties believed to be undertaxed, the Red Bank council is expected to renew its “aggressive” approach this week.
The vacant Vault building at 55 Broad Street, above, and Station Place Apartments on Monmouth Street, below, are also under-assessed, the firm claims. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
In an effort to to “turn the tables,” in the words of Mayor Pasquale Menna, on large-scale commercial property owners who routinely file tax appeals, the council hired the firm of Blau & Blau of Springfield as special counsel to pursue reverse appeals in March, 2018.
The idea: to identify properties that appear to be under-assessed by tenured borough Assessor Mitch Elias, whose work Menna has criticized.
Hiring Blau & Blau, Menna said at the time, “aggressively sets forth that the municipality is now going to play the game, just like the petitioners do” when they challenge borough assessments as too high. The firm had already identified “10 to 12 properties” on which to file challenges and “is ready to go,” he said at the time.
On the agenda for the council’s semimonthly meeting Wednesday night is a resolution reauthorizing the arrangement, under which Blau & Blau gets paid one-third of added tax revenue in successful appeals, and nothing in cases where it fails to boost the assessment.
Attached to the resolution is report on the status of nine cases where Blau & Blau is said to be pursuing possible appeals. Among the properties on the list:
• 8 East Front Street, a building with first-floor commercial tenants and two floors of apartments. The property is assessed at $2.97 million, despite having changed hands 14 months ago for $5.675 million, the documents says.
• The so-called Vault building at 55 Broad Street, a former bank building that was acquired by a unit of Saxum Real Estate for $4 million in late 2016. In 2018, it was assessed at $4.2 million. The building is vacant.
• An apartment complex at 100-103 Prospect Avenue, assessed at $4.8 million in 2018 but mortgaged for $5.4 million the same year.
• West Side Lofts, a 91-apartment complex above stores at West Front Street and Bridge Avenue.
• The Galleria complex of shops and offices at 2 Bridge Avenue.
• The Station Place Apartments at Monmouth and West streets.
• Three Broad Street properties owned by Downtown Investors.
The council meets at 6:30 p.m. at 90 Monmouth Street. Here’s the full agenda.