Controversial Lewiston apartment complex loses tax break - The Buffalo News
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Controversial Lewiston apartment complex loses tax break

WHEATFIELD – The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency rejected a request Wednesday from Bridgewater Estates, a proposed Lewiston senior-citizen apartment complex, to extend the deadline for it to take advantage of the tax break it was granted last year.

June 30 is the one-year deadline for Bridgewater to close on the tax break agreement with the IDA. The company sought a six-month extension, a request that the IDA board usually grants routinely – but not this time.

Anthony Cutaia of Rane Property Management, the Getzville firm developing the project, said the lack of a tax abatement wouldn’t torpedo the plans.

“It was helpful, but it wasn’t necessary for the project,” Cutaia said Wednesday.

According to IDA staff calculations, the 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, arrangement would have saved Bridgewater almost $1.8 million during the 15 years. Cutaia said he has an $18 million construction contract with DGA Builders of Rochester for the 138-unit complex. A small change in the design reduced the number of apartments by one, Cutaia said.

The complex is proposed for land owned by the mother of former Lewiston Supervisor Steven L. Reiter at Ridge and Model City roads, but the project has become snarled in litigation from a neighboring property owner.

Also, the development still needs variances and a special-use permit from the town, as the litigation challenges the validity of the approvals the town granted last year, on the grounds that Reiter didn’t fully disclose his own interest in the project.

Last month, State Supreme Court Justice Mark A. Montour refused to block the project, but he said the opponents could restate their objections once the variances and special use permit are obtained – “if ever,” the judge wrote.

The plaintiff in the case is Lewiston International Business Park, owned by the Washuta family, the owners of Modern Disposal.

IDA board member Michael W. McNally said he went to the site and found that more people work at a diner slated to be demolished as part of the project than would be employed in the apartment complex.

McNally said he was told nine people work at the Hill-Vue Cafe, while Bridgewater’s IDA application promised only four jobs. “We’re looking at a net loss of jobs,” McNally said.

Jerald I. Wolfgang, another IDA member, noted that the Lewiston planning and zoning boards are still mulling the project.

“It does not seem to be a clean project that would just flow through,” Wolfgang said. “I’ve got a lot of confusion over the whole project.”

When the vote was taken, four members voted against the extension of the tax break, while Wolfgang and Chairman Henry M. Sloma abstained. Three members were absent.

IDA attorney Mark J. Gabriele said the local controversy over Reiter’s interest in the project meant nothing to the IDA. The original PILOT application said Reiter was a 19 percent owner of Bridgewater Estates, but Gabriele noted the application instructs those filling it out that they need to list only those who own 20 percent or more of the project.

“For our purposes, it didn’t make any difference in what we did,” Gabriele said.

“I have no ownership interest in that except through family inheritance,” said Reiter, reached by telephone after the meeting. Asked why the original form said he owned 19 percent, he answered, “It should have said ‘the Steve Reiter family.’ It was an honest mistake.”

Bridgewater’s attorney, Alan J. Bozer of the Phillips Lytle firm, sent the IDA a letter last month asserting that Reiter has no ownership interest in the project.

When he was supervisor, Reiter voted for a rezoning of the land on Jan. 28, 2013, that was necessary for the project to be built.

He also signed an environmental assessment form in which the town declared the project would have no adverse environmental effects.

Charles D. Grieco of the Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel law firm, representing Lewiston International Business Park, addressed the IDA Wednesday, charging that form contained false statements.

Reiter abstained July 22 when the Town Board approved the site plan for the apartment complex. He was defeated in last September’s Republican primary election and left office at the end of 2013.


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