AUBURN | Despite objections from two of its members, the Auburn Industrial Development Authority on Wednesday approved a 15-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement with developer JBJ Real Property to conduct a $6.75 million downtown rehabilitation project.
The deal hammered out by the board over the course of six meetings exempts the company from any payments for the first two years of the PILOT, but the company will make deferred payments in following years to make up for the initial exemptions.
On top of those deferred payments, in years three through 12, the property tax assessments on the 20 downtown properties slated for renovations will be frozen at the current $3 million pre-investment rate.
For the final three years, the assessments will ramp up to $6.7 million and the payments will increase by 33 percent of the full taxable amount each year until reaching the full value.
The agreement also includes two recapture clauses: AIDA's standard clause requiring repayment of benefits if the properties are sold within 10 years and a stipulation that JBJ retain an employment rate of at least 75 percent of the job additions the company projected in its PILOT application after the third year.
In previous meetings, Joe Bartolotta, one of JBJ's principals, estimated that the commercial businesses taking up shop in the renovated buildings would add approximately 80 jobs.
Matthew Smith, an AIDA board member and a city councilor, was one of the votes opposing the deal.
"I'm not against the project, I'm against the terms," he said before casting his vote. "Deals like this just shift the burden to a small group of homeowners. They're paying more so others can pay less."
Smith's fellow councilor and AIDA representative Bill Graney, shared similar objections.
"With this tax cap, our tax levy's going to be upside down if we keep at it with these PILOTS," Graney said. "Someone has to pay the taxes somewhere."
AIDA chair James Dacey chastised the city for what he called a lack of long-range planning.
"It concerns me that with the tax cap, there's not enough long-range planning in the city where budgets are concerned," he said. "PILOTs should be part of the plan and are a definite plus."
Matteo Bartolotta, Joe Bartolotta's father and owner of JBJ, said the project is now free to move forward.
"We'll do the best we can," he said. "We can't afford to waste any more time, so we'll have to work hard to get things done."
Of the employment recapture clause, Matteo Bartolotta said the obvious goal is to maintain 100 percent employment, but he said the company is currently in talks with several companies to rent out the commercial spaces.
Staff writer Nathan Baker can be reached at 282-2238 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenBaker.
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