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June 28, 2013

Otsego IDA approves Blodgett plan

By Mark Boshnack The Daily Star
The Daily Star

---- — The Otsego County IDA approved Thursday a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the developers of the student housing project on Blodgett Drive.

Several local landlords who have opposed the plan said they did not know of any actions to challenge the decision.

The county Industrial Development Agency voted 8-0, with one member absent, to approve the plan that had been proposed by the city, IDA chief executive officer Carolyn Lewis said.

Newman Development Group of Vestal has proposed the $23 million Hillside Commons project, which calls for building a four-story, 330-bed apartment complex, near SUNY Oneonta.

The 15-year tax abatement schedule calls for Newman to pay $92,316 in taxes in the first year. escalating to $418,909 in the 15th year. Of the payments, 32 percent would go to the city, 11 percent to the county and 57 percent to the school district. In the 16th year, taxes would be $575,301.

Landlord Steven Feuer said “there’s really nothing else to do. I think it was pushed through without the proper due diligence about the economic impact on the city.” The IDA decision could be challenged but “to what end,” he said.

He said he sees the plan as taking money out of the community that students are currently paying to landlords who live in the area,  and sending it instead to the developer.

Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said he was grateful for the IDA vote but not surprised. The IDA had asked the city to study the project and give its recommendations.

“They have endorsed our actions that are based upon the broad interests of the Oneonta community,” Miller said.

Landlord Brian O’Conner said he did not know of any further action to challenge the agreement. If such action was taken, “there was no guarantee it would do any good. The ship has kind of sailed,” he said.

He was disappointed that in the various discussions he and other property owners participated in, “no one was interested in what we had to say.”

“It’s terrible,” said Nathan Batalion, when he heard about the vote. He said he hadn’t talked with other landlords about the issue, but didn’t know of a contingency plan.

He felt that the “facts” that he and other landlords have presented to the city have been ignored. Owners have been facing “huge” vacancies already and have to “fight to survive.” This will only make the situation worse, he said.