PLATTSBURGH — The local Industrial Development Agency's Board of Directors put its decision of the Durkee lot development's PILOT application on hold until further notice.
The possible PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, agreement appeared before the board at its Monday, Feb. 10 meeting and, Board Chairperson Trent Trahan said, at the request of project developer Albany County-based Prime Plattsburgh LLC, the directors chose to table the item.
"Given the fact that the city has not completed the SEQRA process yet," Trahan explained. "We will table that item for a future meeting."
The County of Clinton Industrial Development Agency, or CCIDA, is a public benefit corporation based at the Clinton County Government Center at 137 Margaret Street in the City of Plattsburgh.
Per its website, the agency provides industrial revenue bond financing, sale-leaseback transactions to provide a variety of tax reduction and abatement opportunities for industry.
"The mission of the CCIDA is to improve economic prosperity by undertaking and supporting projects that foster investment, job creation or job preservation in Clinton County, enhance workforce development and training opportunities for its residents and provide for the general health and well-being of the people of the county," its mission statement says.
"The CCIDA seeks projects that not only elevate the overall standard of living for the county residents, but also meet full regulatory requirements and investment criteria."
When Prime Plattsburgh signed a development deal with the City of Plattsburgh, it then applied for a PILOT agreement with the CCIDA.
Per that initial application, the developer sought an arrangement that would, over the course of 20 years, allow Prime to only pay 34 percent of its total property taxes.
As previously reported by The Press-Republican, Prime representatives had said, without any such payment in lieu of taxes agreement, the multi-use development in the city's downtown district would not be possible.
By its most recent reveal, that project planned to build a 114-unit apartment complex at the current Durkee Street parking lot site, as well as add 10,000 square feet of commercial space, some public/private parking and a pedestrian walkway.
Before the IDA Board on Monday was a more up-to-date version of the possible payment in lieu of taxes agreement.
Unlike the initial application, if approved, the one now under review would require Prime to pay an annual $17,000 in taxes for its first four years, as well as full taxes during its time of construction.
It had also been shortened to 18 years, with the developer paying a total 33.4 percent of its taxes throughout that time.
CCIDA Executive Director Renee McFarlin had said the latest agreement would strap the developer to an additional $140,080 when compared to its first application.
"More importantly, the 18-year schedule will put the property on the tax rolls two years earlier, which will provide as much as a $750,000 increase over the 20 years initially proposed, if not more," McFarlin had told The Press-Republican.
The possible PILOT agreement has been met with some opposition from city residents as well as bodies, like the Plattsburgh City School District and the Plattsburgh Citizens Coalition.
Superintendent of Schools Jay Lebrun, on behalf of the district's Board of Education, recently highlighted concerns in a letter addressed to McFarlin and, at Monday's CCIDA meeting, a couple Board of Education members spoke, as city residents, in opposition to the deal, as well.
In his comments, school board member Steve Krieg said, however, that he made no judgement on the Prime Plattsburgh project or its level of PILOT tax abatement.
"The project itself — I hope it succeeds," he said. "I understand how, if it does go through, if it does succeed, that it will create economic activity; it will create jobs."
But Krieg hoped one day major developers would settle in Plattsburgh for more reasons than a tax abatement, like good schools, educated workers and great recreational opportunities.
"Those are the kinds of things that I think, long term, bring people to our community," he said.
Though retorted by the CCIDA, the City School District has said a PILOT agreement, like the one proposed, would burden city-wide taxpayers and possibly decrease course offerings.
As such, in his Monday afternoon address, Krieg noted a major employer struggle of today: finding educated workers.
"That's what schools are here for," he said. "Running schools takes money. . . I hope when you make a decision like this that you consider these things; consider the reason we're here is to educate these kids.
Remember, when you shortchange kids, you shortchange the future."
Other community members spoke at the meeting, as well, including SUNY Plattsburgh professor and Plattsburgh Citizens Coalition representative Sylvie Beaudreau.
That coalition of stakeholders has threatened to legally challenge the City of Plattsburgh over its handling of the Prime project and, per a statement, the group described the possible PILOT as having a "massive adverse impact" on community taxes.
"IDA’s are meant for 'Industrial Development' and PILOT agreements are meant for industry that creates jobs," the coalition statement says. "Job creation should be the centerpiece of any PILOT agreement, but the direct job creation element of this development is laughable.
"The State Comptroller has opened an investigation into improper use of PILOT agreements; perhaps they should take a close look at this one too."
City Councilors Mike Kelly (D-Ward 2) and Jeff Moore (D-Ward 6) spoke in favor of the agreement.
Kelly said, in terms of development, the deal would allow the city to follow "the train of the nation," and colleague Moore, former Mayor of the Town of Champlain, said PILOT agreements had helped spark economic activity in that area of Clinton County at one time.
"It was very successful," he said. "I think this is a very big plus for our area. We're a small area that has trouble competing with bigger places.
When we get a chance to bring something in — I think we should go for it."
As the Durkee Street parking lot stands currently, no tax revenue is collected.
"Without this PILOT, the project will not be built," McFarlin told The Press-Republican. "Therefore, the net value of the PILOT alone is plus $2,746,900."
As stated and at the request of Prime Plattsburgh, the CCIDA did not vote on the PILOT at its Monday session due to the city's in-process environmental impact study.
That review process, which began in 2019, examined the impacts of a variety of downtown city projects, including the Prime project.
The Common Council OK'd its final Generic Environmental Impact Statement on Jan. 31, launching a 10-day waiting period until finding statement approval, upon which the projects could move forward.
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