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Wheatfield to hold hearing on aid to fitness company

WHEATFIELD – Jacob’s Ladder, a manufacturer of high-end fitness equipment that is about to move into Wheatfield from North Tonawanda, has asked the Town of Wheatfield to apply for a state grant and loan for the company’s benefit.

“It won’t be more than $100,000,” said R. Charles Bell, a partner in the H. Sicherman & Associates economic development consulting firm, who is working with Robert Palka, the owner of Jacob’s Ladder.

The Town Board voted Feb. 22 to hold a public hearing on the application at 7 p.m. March 21 in Town Hall.

The application would go to the state Office of Community Renewal. If received, part of the state money would be a grant and the remainder a term loan.

Bell said that’s where some benefit would come in for Wheatfield. Even though the money would be lent to Jacob’s Ladder by the state, the loan repayments would go to the town, either directly or through the town’s local development corporation.

With that money, “There’s a chance to create a revolving economic development fund here,” said Bell, the former economic development director in the City of Lockport.

Jacob’s Ladder has purchased the former Motorad plant on Walmore Road for $800,000. It will use about 20,000 square feet of the 35,000-square-foot building. Palka said he expects to move into the building in April.

On another business topic, an attorney for DePaul Group, a not-for-profit Rochester developer of senior housing, asked the board for two 30-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreements for upcoming projects in Wheatfield.

Company attorney Evan Y. Bussiere, of the firm of Bond Schoeneck & King, asserted that state law entitles the projects to a complete property tax exemption, but DePaul is willing to negotiate a deal. “As a show of community support, what they want to do is enter into an agreement,” he said.

Aero Apartments will be a three-story, 60-unit apartment building off Williams Road near the LaSalle Expressway on-ramp. It’s intended for low-income renters, for whom 40 units would be reserved, as well as 20 apartments for those receiving state mental health services who are in need of supportive housing.

DePaul, under the name of Aero Apartments Housing Development Fund Co., is proposing to pay the taxing entities a total of $15,000 in each of the first two years of the deal, with the figure rising 2 percent per year thereafter, reaching $26,637 by the 30th year. The Town Board would be able to allocate the money among taxing entities, including Niagara County and the Niagara Wheatfield School District, as it sees fit but all town special district taxes will be paid in full and in addition to the PILOT payments.

Town Attorney Matthew E. Brooks said, “The Town of Wheatfield has no general town tax, so it’ll have more impact on the county and the school.”

The other project, Wheatfield Commons, is to be a 60-unit assisted living and memory care facility for seniors on Forest Park Way.

The terms of the deal would be the same as for Aero Apartments, although the payments in the first year would be $12,000 and the 2 percent increases would start in the second year, reaching $21,309 by Year 30.

“From what we hear from DePaul, there’s a dire need for both of these projects,” Bussiere told the board.

Wheatfield Commons already has town Planning Board approval, while Aero Apartments has been held up over a question of connections to a sanitary sewer, Town Engineer Timothy J. Zuber said.