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TAX INCENTIVE COULD SAVE HISTORIC BUILDINGS

Buffalo's historic treasures, always at risk of being torn down, may get a better chance at a second life if city lawmakers adopt a new financial incentive for building owners.

The measure would provide owners of local landmarks with a five-year freeze on tax assessment increases -- a promise that their investment in the building will not result in an immediate tax increase.

The measure, which was signed into law by Gov. Pataki a few weeks back, gives each locality the option of offering the incentive.

Preservationists view the assessment freeze as a valuable tool in saving buildings that often face the wrecking ball.

The Common Council moved one step closer Tuesday to adopting the freeze when one of its committees unanimously recommended approval.

"It would encourage development that we might not otherwise have," said Tim Tielman, executive director of the Preservation Coalition of Erie County.

If adopted, it would allow the owners of locally designated landmarks to freeze assessments for five years and phase in any increase over the next five years. "This provides a break for people who are working to preserve Buffalo's greatness," said Fillmore Council Member David Franczyk, a sponsor of the measure.

Tielman said the measure could go a long way toward saving current landmarks, including the Webb Building at 90-92 Pearl St.

Developer Carl Paladino has asked the city's Preservation Board for permission to raze the 19th century landmark to extend a parking lot.

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