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April 3, 2013

Mayor: Blodgett project would boost area economy

The proposed student apartment complex on Blodgett Drive would be a boon to Oneonta, Mayor Dick Miller said Tuesday in a memorandum to the Common Council that also addressed economic, housing and other goals for the city.

Newman Development Group of Vestal proposes building a four-story, 325-bed apartment complex. The private development would be near the campus of the State University College at Oneonta, which is unaffiliated with the project.

However, as the developer has been filing applications with local officials for site plan approval and for tax abatements, concerns about the project’s impact and opposition to the developer’s plans have grown in recent weeks with the formation of Save Our Oneonta Neighborhoods, or Save Oneonta.

The Common Council will be asked by the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency for an advisory opinion about Newman Development’s application for a tax abatement plan, and Miller in the memo asked council members to discuss the project during scheduled meetings next week of Community Improvement, Facilities and Finance committees.

Miller said his memo provides some of many factors to consider in preparing a response about a payment-in-lieu-of taxes, or PILOT, agreement, and puts council members on alert that an opinion may be needed as soon as April 16, the next meeting of the full council.

“I can see no basis for not supporting the project,’’ Miller concluded in his five-page memo. “It would be irresponsible not to support it.’’

Larry Malone, Second Ward council representative and chairman of the Finance Committee, said he awaits details from the developer and has yet to review the memo from Miller.

“He hadn’t made any kind of public declaration,’’ Malone said.

However, endorsement or opposition stated by the mayor or council members regarding the project doesn’t carry significant weight because the site is zoned for such development, he said. If Newman Development weren’t proposing the apartment complex, another party — such as SUNY Oneonta or a developer from Dubai — could propose to build, said Malone, an economics professor at Hartwick College.

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