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AMHERST IDA BACKS NEW GUIDELINES TO CLARIFY ELIGIBILITY FOR TAX BREAKS

The new guidelines to clarify eligibility for sales and property tax breaks granted by industrial development agencies won the support Friday from the Amherst IDA, but not its approval.

The Amherst IDA, bowing to complaints from developers that the new guidelines were developed without adequate input, voted Friday to delay taking action on the countywide IDA policy, while indicating its support for the revisions.

"We were part of the authorship of it, and we think it's a good policy," said James J. Allen, the Amherst IDA's executive director.

But the IDA's board members decided to wait a month before voting on the policy to give agency officials the chance to meet with local developers, including Uniland Development Co. and Iskalo Development Corp., which both said they were only recently made aware of the new policy being developed.

"I am concerned that this policy, with such far reaching economic development implications, is being considered for adoption without the input of the IDA's customers most affected, that is the developers and the business community of Western New York," said Paul B. Iskalo, Iskalo Development's president.

Uniland also objected to the "little public notice" given to the new policy and the lack of involvement by the private sector. "Essentially, no one bothered to ask the customer how the proposed policy might affect them," said Peter A. Sayadoff, Uniland's director of finance.

Uniland also said it objects to the new requirement that companies moving from Buffalo to the suburbs go through the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, whose board includes Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello and Common Council member David Franczyk, along with representatives of organized labor and minority groups.

Requirements for additional documentation involving moves between municipalities could slow down the development process at a time when speed is often critical. A requirement that companies consider other available sites within their current community also would place an additional burden on developers, Sayadoff said.

IDA board member Randall Clark scoffed at the notion that the developers only recently became aware of the policy revisions, noting that the nearly year-long effort was led by Andrew Rudnick, the president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the region's main business advocacy group.

Allen noted that the policies relating to movement between communities apply only to new facilities, which have rarely been part of the controversial cases involving stock brokerages and other white collar firms that have moved from the city to the suburbs.

While the Hamburg and Erie County IDAs have approved the new policy, the Clarence IDA did not back the revisions at its meeting on Thursday. The Concord and Lancaster IDAs are expected to consider the policy over the next few weeks.

Clark expressed concern that a delay in approving the new policy by the Amherst IDA could provide political fuel for a renewed effort to consolidate all of the county's IDAs into a single entity, which led to the board adopting specific language indicating its support for the new guidelines.

"It's only a question of whether we listen to what (the developers) have to say in the next 30 days," said Paul Quebral, the IDA's chairman.

"I have no doubt the direction of the policy is the right way to go," he said. "But doing that without a hearing is the kind of arrogance that gets us into trouble."

e-mail: drobinson@buffnews.com

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