Ordinance 2472: Adds Waiving Of Construction-Related Fees To 501(c)(3) Organizations

In response to concerns from members of the governing body regarding the exclusionary – and discriminatory – preference of houses of worship, council has proposed to add the waiving of all construction-related fees for federally recognized non-profits.

The section that has been expanded is Section 6, with Subsection (d) being added.

  1. Waiver of enforcing fees for the following:
    1. Construction performed by or on behalf of the Borough of Roselle Park;
    2. Construction to a public building owned by the County of Union or the Roselle Park Board of Education;
    3. Houses of Worship within the Borough of Roselle Park when they “own the land and improvements” where they conduct services; and
    4. Federal 501(c)(3) Organizations within the Borough of Roselle Park when they “own the land and improvements.”

There were three major questions asked regarding the amendment. One was why Subsection (c) could not just include both houses of worship and federally recognized 501(c)(3) organizations. Borough Attorney Richard Huxford stated that he did not know if all houses of worship had 501(c)(3) exempt status. A review of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website shows that churches and other houses of worship are automatically tax-exempt if they satisfy certain criteria and do not need to necessarily file for 501(c)(3) status.

There was another question regarding people using their private residence as a federally recognized tax-exempt use, would the use have to continue if the property was sold. Mr. Huxford stated that such was the case. One point that was not addressed was if someone had a private residence and filed for 501(c)(3) status with their home address, would they be allowed to make improvements without paying construction-related fees.

Fifth Ward Councilman Thomas ‘Thos’ Shipley asked for clarification regarding permit fees and construction fees. Borough Attorney Richard Huxford stated that permit fees would still need to be paid by everyone and that only the construction fees would be waived for those referred to in Section 6.

Councilman Shipley then asked if Subsections (c) and (d) could be combined and made a formal motion to that effect. It was seconded by Councilwoman-At-Large Charlene Storey but after some discussion was not approved by a 4-2 vote.

Before the vote to introduce the ordinance, Councilwoman Storey asked a question of each councilmember, “Do you believe that government should choose what charities or what 501(c)(3)s residents donate their money to?”

First Ward Councilman Eugene Meola responded first, saying, “No, I don’t think they should. I don’t think they should tell them directly who to give money to.”

“This is essentially what we would be doing. We would be saying we’re giving your money to these 501(c)(3)s,” remarked the councilwoman.

Second Ward Councilmen Joseph Petrosky answered, “No comment.”

Third Ward Councilman Ryan Kelly stated, “We’d probably talk in circles because I don’t agree with how the question is constructed. I don’t believe that we are directly taking taxpayer money and then donating it to a 501(c)(3).”

“Well, you’re not charging them money, you’re charging everyone one else so, therefore, it’s money that comes out of our pockets . . . taxpayers of Roselle Park,” added the councilwoman.

“Again, I think we’ll just continue to talk in circles because I don’t’ agree that that is the case,” concluded Councilman Kelly.

Fourth Ward Councilman Mohamed ‘Gino’ Elmarassy said, “I have no comment at this time.”

Councilman Shipley commented, “I do not agree . . . that people should be asked to give money to something they have not agreed to give it to.”

The ordinaceOrdinance 2472 was introduced with only councilmembers Shiley and Storey voting against it.

This ordinance is set to be voted on at the September 15th Mayor & Council meeting at the Roselle Park Municipal Complex.

A copy of the full ordinance is available below:

Download File (PDF)