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May 4, 2013

Blodgett plan on city's agenda

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The Oneonta Common Council will be considering a PILOT agreement with Newman Development for its proposed student housing project during its regular Tuesday meeting. It will be held 7 p.m. at the Oneonta High School cafeteria.

The company is seeking to build a 330-bed student housing complex on Blodgett Drive, near the State University College at Oneonta.

Mayor Dick Miller provided a copy of the payment in lieu of taxes agreements to council members Friday. It’s similar to the plan discussed at a recent meeting covering 15 years, he said, with a 75 percent abatement in years one to five, 50 percent in years six to 10 and 25 percent in years 11 to 15, with a 3 percent tax escalator clause.

It calls for the company to pay a total of $3,602,514 over the lifetime of the agreement with 32 percent going to the city, 11 percent to the county, and 57 percent to the school. Council members will also be asked to approve a generic PILOT for future projects more than $3 million comprising 40 or more dwelling units.

Of the council members reached for comment Friday, only one was opposed to the plan.

The main difference with what was previously discussed is that the company has agreed to pay the $70,000 in storm-water improvements, which the area would need regardless of whether the project goes forward, Miller said. This is in addition to the $340,000 of water and road infrastructure improvements the developer has agreed to.

The Hillside Commons project is assessed at $8.4 million. If it isn’t built, Miller said, the college will build something similar that won’t be on the tax rolls.

“Such projects are critically important because they increase the tax base,” Miller said. If it moves forward, “it shows the city is ready and willing to work with those who want to bring sensible development.”

He said, “I’m satisfied we have an arrangement that’s fair all the way around and will be good for the city.” He added that he has answered a number of questions from council members in the last several weeks, and they should be ready to take action.

“I hope it will be approved,” he said. Further action by the council and planning commission can delay the project but plans call for the developer to start the project in June with opening Aug. 2014.

Not all council members could be reached for comment, but all were called Friday.

Fourth Ward council member Michael Lynch said he is opposed to the PILOT.

“I don’t think the city government should be in the business of extending tax breaks just to benefit the profits of corporations,” he said.

Fifth Ward council member Madolyn Palmer said she will be voting for it. The developers have a good reputation, and if they don’t build it, someone else will and it could come off the tax rolls, she said.

Third Ward council member David Rissberger said the proposal is “a good idea.” He said it offers protection for the city, in that the property will stay on the tax rolls, and the extra infrastructure payments are also helpful.

Seventh Ward council member Bob Brzozowski said he has hasn’t had a chance to read the proposal, so he hasn’t made up his mind. However, it will be difficult to say no if it’s in the best interests of the city, he said.