AUBURN | The crowd, it seemed, was split.

Filling most of the benches set up in Memorial City Hall, Auburn residents shared their divided opinions on a proposed senior housing project Tuesday afternoon during the Auburn Industrial Development Authority's public hearing.

The hearing was held regarding Calamar Construction's request seeking a 10-year-long of payments in lieu of taxes, known as a PILOT, for the three-story apartment building it wants to construct in the wooded lot bordered by Standart Avenue, Grant Avenue, Catlin Street and North Lewis Street.

The company asked for a shorter PILOT period after AIDA unanimously rejected its request for a 20-year-long PILOT on July 31.

During the public hearing, Calamar representatives, local officials and neighbors living on the northeast side of Auburn spoke — almost equally — for and against the project.

Ron Noga, of 124 N. Lewis St., asked the AIDA board to deny Calamar's second request, arguing that the housing complex would only bring more dangerous traffic to the Standart Avenue area, not business.

"I don't think you'd want this in your backyard either," Noga said.

Tom Gabak, of 106 N. Lewis St., agreed, adding that PILOT programs should be reserved for job-creating businesses.

"There will be no increase in jobs," he said. "The only thing they'll be bringing to the table are construction jobs."

As a employee who works with the elderly, Sarah Douglas, of 121 Osborne St., said she believed the Calamar project would give seniors an option for an easier lifestyle while maintaining a social life and retaining their independence.

"I feel like this project is really needed," she said, explaining the senior housing center would appeal to local elderly residents and the aging baby boomer population.

Andrew Fish, interim director of the Cayuga Economic Development Agency, also spoke in support, citing the $1.2 million dollar property tax increase over the 10-year PILOT. He also added that it would keep aging seniors in the Auburn community rather than forcing them into other counties.

"This will keep their dollars in our community, to be spent in our stores," Fish said.

After closing the public hearing, AIDA board members briefly discussed the PILOT before setting a vote for 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10.

Before adjourning the meeting, James Dacey, AIDA chair, told the crowd that he believed that through the $250,000 to $1 million in repairs Calamar planned to spend on the senior center each year would serve as an additional benefit to the community.

"That's above and beyond the construction," he said. "I think there's some other tangibles in here besides the taxes."

Staff writer Samantha House can be reached at 282-2282 or samantha.house@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter at Citizen_House.

(4) comments

patchwork

Is it by coincidence that on the same page where a developer wants a tax deal, the city school district is looking at a $4.1million deficit? There is a relationship between increased amounts of non-taxed properties and funding deficits for our schools and city services. According to the city website, Auburn's taxable property value has decreased over the last year and that could have major implications for property owners who actually pay the bills.
Is there a need for this development? I'm sure that Calamar has done their due dilligence on their project, so I would have to assume that there is. Keep in mind that this same developer originally said they needed a 20 year PILOT in order for the project to be feasible and that appeared to be a bluff, which leads me to believe that this project would be feasible without any PILOT and this may only be a ploy to fatten their profits at taxpayer's expense. Who could blame them, when AIDA handed down a 25 year deal for a hotel?

patchwork

Has AIDA done any research on the impact to other "fully taxed" apartment complexes? With a hundred new units and the possibility that many tenants may sell their homes, what is the impact on local property values?
AIDA's mission should be to promote job growth and aside from some short term construction jobs that most likely consist of people who don't even reside in Auburn, how many jobs are we talking about?
What is the direct impact to neighbors? I know I wouldn't want an apt complex in my backyard or on my street. What happens when their property values drop?
Has AIDA done any research on how many households in the city are in buildings where property taxes are not even paid or are at reduced rates and how the burden of providing for issues like public safety on the remaining taxpayers has become overwhelming and may be forcing some to consider options of moving ?

patchwork

The Chamber of Commerce talks about how it will keep "aging seniors" in the community where they can spend their dollars locally. First I don't consider a 55 and over population as aging where they have to flee to other areas to live, that is unless they are running from our high taxes like most everyone else apparently is. Of course some just believe that all economic development needs free money in order to start and grow and others make a living getting those deals for others. Most people don't realize that most economic activity happens without tax deals or incentives and that selective tax deals only serve to pick winners and losers and create uneven playing fields. I drive by the hotel and many times the lot is nearly filled with cars, then I wonder how many of those customers could have been at one of our fully taxed establishments and how that loss in business may affect their profits. Don't we already have at least one of them fighting to have their property taxes reduced?

patchwork

Lastly, with all due respect to AIDA and their chair, I have posted numerous times on how AIDA conducted business for several years with a board appointment that violated state law and during those years they approved millions in tax deals and other incentives. When public boards or any government official, in any capacity, break the law, for whatever reason, public trust and confidence slides. When an organization is charged with the task of understanding and researching sometimes complex economic deals, their crediblity disappears when they cannot even manage their own affairs within the scope of the law. In my opinion, millions were awarded and taxpayers were not properly represented and people need to be held accountable along with those deals being voided. To sweep this under the rug only serves to fan the flames of distrust in our government and that's a real shame.

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