Controversy flares over proposal to abolish Town of Niagara IDA - The Buffalo News

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Controversy flares over proposal to abolish Town of Niagara IDA

TOWN OF NIAGARA – The Niagara Town Board will discuss a proposal from a county legislator to do away with the town’s Industrial Development Agency at an Aug. 14 work session.

However, the outcome of the suggestion from County Legislator Jason A. Zona was far from clear this week.

Councilman Robert A. Clark was leaning toward the idea Thursday, while Councilman Danny W. Sklarski was strongly against abolition. The other two board members, Marc Carpenter and Charles F. Teixeira, were noncommittal.

“It’s either a benefit to the taxpayers, or it’s nothing.” said Deputy Supervisor and Town Clerk Sylvia Virtuoso, who does not have a vote. She is in charge of the town government since Supervisor Steven C. Richards resigned in May as part of a guilty plea in a corruption case.

Zona, a Niagara Falls Democrat whose district includes the entire town, said the town doesn’t need its own IDA, since the Niagara County IDA could handle any projects that crop up.

He said that in all likelihood, the county IDA would take over administration of all payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreements the town has in force, and could not change the terms of those deals.

Among those are a 15-year tax break for the expansion of the Fashion Outlets Mall. Last October, the town IDA approved a deal in which the mall’s owner, Macerich Co. of California, will pay property taxes at 40 percent of the expansion’s full value and avoid all sales taxes on building materials and furnishings for the expansion.

Zona said after the mall expansion is complete, there will be little available land on the Military Road commercial strip for further development.

But Calvin K. Richards, the IDA chairman, said the town controls the 117-acre former LaSalle Sportsmen’s Club and is soon expected to take over a former Army support center near the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station with about 21 acres.

“Who knows what the future would bring?” said Richards, the father of the former supervisor. “We’ve got to have some money when the support center becomes town property.”

Richards said the town started its IDA because it was concerned the county IDA wasn’t giving the town any say in projects.

He said the once-hostile relations mellowed when Samuel M. Ferraro took over as executive director of the county IDA.

“We’re not competitive. Anything within our town, they refer to us,” Richards said. He said the town IDA offered to help the town with the purchase of police cars last year, but hasn’t received a reply.

Gabriele said the proposal was for the IDA to reduce its fee on the mall deal by $150,000 and have Macerich give the money to the town for the cars. The Town Board, apparently unaware of the idea, borrowed money for the cars.

Carpenter said the town is renegotiating a host community agreement with the mall owner, which would increase the annual cash payment from $200,000 to $300,000.

He said the original $200,000 payments were earmarked for the town park, while the new $100,000 a year would go either to the Police Department or the fire companies.


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