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Industrial Development Agency
Town Board, 3-7-2017
The resolution urges support for Assembly Bill A5753/Senate Bill S328 that would allow Yorktown to create an IDA. Before voting for the resolution, which was passed by a unanimous vote, Councilman Patel asked why a town IDA was needed and why a business interested in coming to Yorktown couldn’t apply to the county IDA that already had the expertise and staff to assist the business. In response, Councilman Lachterman stated that the county might have location priorities that didn’t include Yorktown and that we should look out for ourselves. Supervisor Grace added that what was important for Yorktown might not be important for the county and that there were other benefits of having a local IDA although he didn’t specify any. Without providing any details, he made reference to the proposed autistic school. He said there was no harm to creating a local IDA and that it was another tool the town could use to repurpose old buildings.
Town Board, 5-17-2016
The board passed a home rule resolution in support of a state law, sponsored by Senator Murphy and Assemblyman Katz (S7255/A10005) that would allow the town to re-estabalish an IDA. (Note: According to the documents accompanying the state law, Yorktown’s previous IDA ceased to exist as it had no outstanding bonds or other obligations.)
Supervisor Grace said that there may be some projects that could benefit from either a sales tax exemption or a PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) agreement that could be made available by a town IDA. By creating a town IDA, Grace said the town would not be beholden to the existing Westchester County IDA which might not approve a town project.
During Courtesy of the Floor, Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, asked for more information about the proposed projects the supervisor was alluding to and also whether a local law, subject to a public hearing, would be required in order to establish the IDA. There was no response.
Town Board, 4-11-2016
In an item not on the agenda, and without any discussion, the board approved a resolution requesting the state senate and assembly pass home rule legislation authoring Yorktown to create an Industrial Development Agency. (Note: The resolution was handed to board members at the end of the meeting when the supervisor’s assistant advised the board that there were a series of resolutions to be voted on.)
Supervisor Grace said that there was a potential project that would spend $10 million and that if the investor went to the county IDA, the town would lose revenue. He did not explain who the investor was, or for what project, and what revenue he was talking about. (Note: During the April 5 public hearing to create an Industrial and Commercial Incentive Board, the supervisor mentioned the board’s intent to create an IDA but he didn’t go into any detail about the plan and the local law that was the subject of the public hearing only dealt with the creation of the Incentive Board and the Section 485b tax incentive and had nothing to do with an IDA.)
Section 485b Incentive
Town Board, 4-4-2017
Larry Killan asked the board what type of analysis had been done prior to adopting the abatement law to determine the potential effectiveness of the law. He added that data needed to be collected to assess both the short and long term impacts of the law. In response, Councilman Bernard said that a second committee might be formed that could track the data.
Town Board, 3-7-2017
Larry Killan asked whether the town would report on the implementation of the plan, including who was getting tax breaks and the effect of the policy on new and existing businesses. In response, Supervisor Grace defended the program, saying that it was a misnomer to call it as tax break, and adding that in the absence of such programs, the town had lost out on dome very good projects. He said the town would be evaluating the program’s implementation.
Town Board, 2-21-2017
After opening the hearing, Supervisor Grace and Town Attorney McDermott explained the reason for the local law and its provisions. During the hearing, it was emphasized that the tax abatement would apply only to the added assessed value that resulted from either an improvement to an existing structure or the construction of a new building. Supervisor Grace’s major point in support of the law was that taxes were an important factor in a business’s decision to locate in Yorktown or update an existing building, and that anything the town could do to help the business succeed was worthwhile and beneficial to the town.
Citing recent studies, several speakers, including Maura Gregory, Mark Lieberman and Mel Tanzman, questioned whether the abatement would make a difference in attracting new business to Yorktown. According to the studies, taxes were only one factor in a business’s decision where to locate, and it wasn’t a major one, especially for larger businesses. Ms. Gregory asked the board what evidence it had to support the belief that the abatement would actually make a difference.
Mr. Tanzman also suggested that the abatement be applicable only to small businesses. He said the board had not done its due diligence on the impact the abatement would have, pointing out that helping one business could actually hurt other businesses in Yorktown. He also said that what the town needed to attract new business was a vision that could be used to market the town.
Paul Moskowitz pointed out that because the tax reduction applied only to town taxes, it would be very modest for a major business. Supervisor Grace acknowledged that the program was aimed more at small businesses and that the two school districts had indicated interest in adopting similar legislation for school taxes.
Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary pointed out that the way the law was written Lowe’s would be eligible for the abatement even though it decided to come to Yorktown without any tax incentive. She suggested that the law be amended so that it only applied to development applications or building permits that were submitted after the law went into effect. She cited several new businesses in several of the town’s hamlets that have opened with any tax incentive. She also asked what evidence there was that the 485b program had resulted in increased business activity in the other New York State towns that had adopted the program.
Jay Kopstein, Robert Puff and Jeffrey Jankowski, a member of the advisory board that recommended the abatement, all supported the legislation. Mr. Puff said the program would help small start-up businesses and that the legislation should not discriminate between large and small businesses.
After closing the hearing, the board voted 5-0 to adopt the local law. Supervisor Grace said that the board had researched the value of tax incentives and that he disagreed with the comments made that questioned the value of the law. He said that “something is better than nothing.” Citing the competition for new business from other towns, he said Yorktown had to take the first step in the current competitive environment.
Town Board, 1-10-2017
Town Attorney McDermott presented the board’s draft report. Six members of the board were present. The report suggested that the 485b program be applied to all types of commercial development in all parts of Yorktown. Recognizing that, with the exception of very large companies, the incentive alone was not sufficient to bring more commercial development to Yorktown, the report also included recommendations for additional economic development initiatives, the most significant of which was the need to aggressively market the town and create a “wow” factor that would draw companies into Yorktown. Supervisor Grace noted that while the economy was picking up, other towns were also competing for additional commercial development.
Noting that the 2010 Comprehensive Plan included many economic development suggestions, one incentive board member asked if the Town Board ever reviewed the Plan. And, although initially critical of the plan, saying that it “absolutely stunk,” Supervisor Grace later agreed that a committee might be formed to review the plan in addition to developing other economic development recommendations.
Without any changes, the Town Board accepted the draft report as a Final Report and voted to refer out a proposed local law that would implement the 485b incentive. A public hearing on the law was set for February 21.
Town Board, 9-6-2016
Appointments: Industrial and Commercial Incentive Board
Michael Ciniscolo, Clifford Weber, Joseph Visconti, Matthew Bloom, Jeffrey Jankowski, and Robert Giordano, alternate.
Supervisor Grace explained that the committee’s tasks will be to come up with a plan and map for how the 485b incentive plan should be implemented and also to recommend grant opportunities for revitalizing the town’s commercial base. He said that most of the members were new to participating in town affairs and that given their expertise in real estate and finance they represented “new blood” and “fresh ideas.”
Town Board, 6-28-2016
The board returned to closed session to discuss appointments to the Commercial Incentive Board.
Town Board, 6-14-2016
Supervisor Grace asked each board member to submit three names for potential members of the new board. Adding that “we know what kind of people we need on the board.” He added that board members probably already had specific people in mind, and that some people had already approached him. He added that it was important to get people who could work together. The actual selection will be made in a closed executive session.
Town Board, 5-17-2016
Ms. Siegel asked if members had been appointed to the board that was established on April 5. The board was charged with developing a plan for providing tax incentives to commercial developers. There was no response.
Town Board, 4-5-2016
Supervisor Grace explained that under Section 485b of the NYS Real Property Tax Law if the assessed value of a commercial property increased because the owner renovated an existing building or a new building was constructed, the taxing jurisdictions,e.g., the town and school district, could grant a 50% reduction in the increase in the assessed value, decreasing by 5% over a 10 year period. But, before enacting the incentive program, the board was proposing to create an Industrial and Commercial Incentive Board to recommend how the incentive should be structured, e.g., what types of businesses should be eligible and/or in what parts of Yorktown.
The Supervisor said he hoped that enacting the incentive would help revitalize the town, especially some of our older buildings. One of the problems holding back building upgrades, he said, was that the cost of the upgrade was typically passed on to tenants whose leases included their share of a building’s taxes and that the higher rents made filling vacancies more difficult. He said people had come to him with revitalization ideas but shied away from proceeding with their plans.
Supervisor Grace indicated that the Yorktown School District appeared to be supportive of the 485b program.
Although not part of the 485b public hearing, the supervisor also talked about wanting to create an IDA (Industrial Development Authority) that could issue municipal bonds to help private developers get lower interest rates.
Jay Kopstein said he supported the program and wanted to know if the town could withdraw the incentive if the property “turned to crap.” In response to his question as to whether there would be a public hearing when the Town Board was ready to enact the incentive, the town attorney said yes, there would be a second local law and second public hearing.
Aaron Bock supported the incentive, speaking as a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the owner of an office building and as a resident. He noted that owners of office buildings have lost tenants who now conduct their business from home offices.
Tony Grasso said the town needed to increase the percentage of commercial property in town.
Susan Siegel (the person writing this summary) said she supported efforts that encouraged more commercial rateables but, citing several already completed and planned new construction and redevelopment projects in the pipeline that have or are going forward without an incent6ive, she suggested that the new board produce hard data to show that the incentive was really needed. She also suggested that there be some guidelines governing the membership of the new board, that the board’s meetings be subject to the Open Meetings Law and that there should be a public hearing before the Town Board adopts the incentive board’s recommendations.
The board closed the hearing and voted to approve the local law without any changes.
Town Board, 2-24-2016
Town Attorney McDermott advised the board that before it can pass a law to grant tax relief for existing commercial properties that are revitalized, the town must create an advisory board that must issue a report identifying what types of businesses and in what parts of town would be eligible for the relief. There are few guidelines for who the members of the new board should be; one option might be certain department heads and a representative of the Chamber. He wasn’t sure if the Town Board could constitute itself as the advisory board. If and when the town approved a local law, the relief would only apply to town taxes. Supervisor Grace said he has already had discussions with the Yorktown School district and they appeared to be in favor of the program as it would apply to relief for school taxes.
Mr. McDermott has prepared draft legislation creating the advisory board and it will be scheduled for a public hearing.
Town Board, 3/26/2012
Councilman Bianco explained that last year he had developed a plan, along with Chamber of Commerce President Joe Visconti, to offer an incentive to businesses of less than 25,000 square feet as a way to lease up space in vacant stores. Originally planned as a tax break to the landlords, the plan was modified to provide a maximum benefit of $1,200 to tenants who would be paid by the town in quarterly installments.The town attorney, however, has advised him that the plan might be an illegal on the grounds that it constitutes “a gift of public funds” and that the only way around that restriction would be to get state enabling legislation.
Supervisor Grace commended Mr. Bianco for what he called a laudable idea but agreed with the town attorney’s logic. He said that the solution to the vacant stores could be lowering the rent, a suggestion Mr. Visconti said had been tried but which hadn’t worked. He said that one landlord had already lowered his rent to $25/sf from $32/sf.
Councilman Bianco said he would explore other possibilities to assist local businesses with Senator Ball and that in the meantime the $25,000 set aside in the 2012 budget would remain in the budget.
Mr. Visconti said that the real problem for new businesses was speeding up the building permit process. A $100/month reduction in rent won’t make a difference, he said, adding that while the Chamber can bring new business to Yorktown, what needed to be changed was the permitting process. He cited an example of someone who applied for a building permit in May but didn’t get it until Christmas. Supervisor Grace responded that Building Inspector John Winter has been working hard to expedite the process which is a high priority for the department and that the newly appointed code enforcement officer has the skills to work with and assist the assistant building inspectors on permit issues.
Councilman Paganelli suggested to Mr. Visconti that if a business is having a problem obtaining a permit, that he notify the town as soon as possible so that someone could look into the problem. It doesn’t help, he said, if you tell us six months later. Mr. Visconti also acknowledged that the delay in obtaining a permit is often due to the applicant and his professional team.