Local Press Round-Up

 Here are a couple of articles from newspapers serving the South Jersey area that caught my eye over the weekend:

The first is by Diane Mastrull of The Philadelphia Inquirer about an upscale multi-family property in New York using a wastewater-recycling system designed, installed and managed by American Water, which is based in Voorhees, NJ.  The name of the property is the Visionaire, located in Battery Park, which opened in September/2008 with LEED Platinum certification, the highest of the U.S. Green Building Council's sustainability standards.

The information about American Water's efforts to become more efficient and green is interesting, but what caught my eye was the fact that the owner's decision to use the system at a cost of nearly $2 million was an incentive from NYC: a 25% reduction in water rates.  According to Russell Albanese of the Albanese Organization, developer of the Visionaire:

The city's rates have been increasing on average 11 percent a year, so the savings over time should become more significant.

The second article was from Erik Ortiz of The Press of Atlantic City about the generally still-bleak outlook for local malls and retail in Atlantic County, NJ.  What caught my eye was the efforts by the new owners of Heather Croft Square to increase occupancy which apparently will include new frontage.

The moral of the stories for me: sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

UPDATE: NJ Assembly + Sub-Metering Bill

By way of update on an earlier post, it appears that the NJ Legislature failed to reach Bill A-1628 on 1/11/10 and the 2009 legislative session closed w/o the act becoming law.  However, Senator Joseph F. Vitale has moved quickly to post Bill S-819, which is substantially similar to A-1628, although not identical, including some new definitions among other things.  A copy of A-1628 can be found here and a copy of S-819 can be found here for comparison purposes.

Here are some of the highlights from S-819:

  • It specifically includes condominium and cooperatives as covered under the Bill.
  • It requires installation of a "water conservation device" before an occupant can be billed separately for water or sewage.  It defines what constitutes a "water conservation device" for shower-heads, faucets and toilets. 
  • The landlord/condominium/cooperative is responsible for reading the sub-meter and billing the occupant.
  • The occupants are to be billed on same billing cycle as the provider bills the landlord, etc.
  • The sub-meter must only measure consumption for the unit in question. In other words, the sub-meter can't measure any "common area" or like consumption.
  • Landlords, etc. still can't charge an administrative fee for costs in billing.  Moreover, installation and set-up costs for the sub-meter also can't be charged to the occupant.
  • An occupant who fails to pay the sub-metered bill w/in the specified payment period -- which can be no less than 28 days -- can be assessed a late fee up to $25.00.  (This is new.)
  •  Water and sewerage charges subject to sub-metering are exempt from local rent control ordinances governing allowable increases.
  • As in A-1628, a landlord has to respond to an occupant's report of a leak w/in 24 hours.  However, in a big change from A-1628, S-819 requires the landlord to repair the leak w/in 36 hours of notice.  Further, this provision could be read to mean that if the landlord fails to meet either of those deadlines -- 24 hours for response/36 hours for repair -- the occupant shall be entitled to a credit as spelled out in this provision.  (A-1628 gave the landlord up to a week to "substantially repair" the leak.)
  • The "billing dispute resolution" provisions found in A-1628 are not included.
  • On receipt of a sub-metered bill and w/in time for payment of same, an occupant may request that a person w/ expertise in installation and operation of sub-meters, and w/ no financial relationship to landlord, etc., test the sub-meter in question for accuracy. If the testing indicates that the sub-meter is inaccurate on the high side, the landlord shall pay for installation of a new sub-meter, pay for the cost of the test, and provide the occupant w/ a bill reduction and/or credit for the current and prior billing periods for the amounts overcharged. If the test of the sub-meter shows that it is accurate, the occupant must pay for the test and the landlord can charge him/her is occupant fails to pay for it.
  • Contrary, to A-1628, there is no restriction on when sub-metered billing on units not subject to rent control can be implemented, other than notice to the occupant, installation of the sub-meter and water conservation device and adoption of applicable rules by DCA.  (A-1628 forced a landlord to wait until lease renewal.)  The restrictions from A-1628 concerning units subject to rent control are included in S-819.

We'll keep you up to speed on all developments concerning S-819.

D.C. Commercial Landlords Start Posting Energy Costs

According to the Washington Post, the time has come for Washington, D.C., commercial landlords to begin complying with the District's Clean and Affordable Energy ActUnder the Act, which was passed in 2008, starting in 2010 landlords overseeing more than 200,000 square feet of office space are required by law to record energy and water usage rates in accord with the benchmarks established under the EPA's "Energy Star" program and, by the end of 2013, all buildings over 50,000 square feet must be compliant. 

Under the Energy Star program, buildings are assigned a rating from 1 to 100 based on how their energy efficiency compares with similar buildings in the country.  A building's rating will eventually be posted online, but there is a 2-year lag so landlords that must start reporting in 2010 will not see building ratings posted until 2012.  The lag in posting is intended to afford landlords the chance to install energy-efficient technologies, if they wish.

According to Cliff Majersik, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Market Transformation, D.C. was the first area in the U.S. to enact such a law.  However, in December/2009 New York City passed a law that takes D.C.'s legislation even further by also requiring multi-family dwellings to record energy consumption rates.

Am I crazy for thinking that the required reporting and posting of energy ratings could be a good thing?  I am mindful of the cost involved, especially for older buildings.  However, if done right, can't some if not all of the money spent on improving energy efficiency eventually be recouped?  I would think that a good Energy Star rating would be yet another way to distinguish a property from its competitors and add value.

Like most things "green," I suspect that more municipalities are eventually going to jump on this trend.