The Amherst Industrial Development Agency approved $5.3 million in tax breaks for a new $29 million office building in the CrossPoint Business Park, but it was a $22,575 tax break for a new veterinary office and a change in the board's makeup that sparked the most comment Friday.
The board unanimously approved the package of sales, property mortgage tax breaks for Uniland Development Co. to build a 156,000-square-foot multitenant office building at 580CrossPoint Parkway, off of North French Road.
Citigroup, which moved into a new back-office facility in the office park last fall, is expected to be the major tenant in the new building as it expands its back-office operations in the Buffalo Niagara region.
Uniland executives indicated that the expansion of the CrossPoint Business Park would not be done without the tax breaks because the rental rates would not be competitive.
The new building is expected to pay $4.1 million more in school and property taxes than the vacant parcel currently does over the next 10 years, IDA officials said.
But it was a $22,575 sales tax break for the Northtown Animal Hospital to renovate and buy equipment for a new veterinary office at 839 Niagara Falls Blvd. that drew criticism from former IDA board member James Cullinan.
"It would give Northtown a rather substantial competitive edge" over other veterinary offices that did not receive tax incentives, Cullinan said. He suggested that the animal hospital's owner, Clarence resident Jean M. Schaedler, apply to the Clarence IDA for aid in opening an office in that neighboring suburb.
James Allen, the IDA's executive director, said the animal hospital, which will occupy 4,000 square feet of space in a 12,000-square-foot building it shares with a martial arts studio, is eligible for aid because it involves the renovation of space in a redevelopment zone that has been vacant for about five years.
The animal hospital project, which also is receiving aid from U.S. Small Business Administration programs, came to the IDA's attention through the agency's efforts to reach out to small businesses, Allen said.
"We're trying to find a way to be more involved" with small business projects, Allen said.
The move by the Amherst Town Board to not reappoint former IDA chairman Edward Stachura and fill his seat on the board with attorney Robert Ciesielski also drew criticism from current board member Robert Miller.
Miller, while saying his comments were not directed personally at Ciesielski, criticized the Town Board for not reappointing Stachura.
"I find it disheartening that our Town Board wants to politicize this appointment," Miller said. "I'm very disturbed by the procedure that the Town Board uses to appoint people, at least, to this agency."
Stachura, in comments to the board at the beginning of the meeting praising the agency's work over the years, said he was disappointed at not being reappointed to the board.
"The misinformation expressed at the Town Board meetings is evidence that many do not understand the purpose of the Amherst IDA," Stachura said.