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Youngstown jet boat service, Falls boutique hotel win tax breaks

WHEATFIELD – The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency Wednesday granted property and sales tax breaks for a new Niagara River jet boat service and an 11-room Niagara Falls hotel.

The IDA board’s votes in favor of the requests for Niagara Jet Adventures and 452 Third Street LLC were unanimous.

Niagara Jet, whose majority owner is Michael J. Fox, the owner of Niagara Falls’ Fox Fence Co., received a five-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, arrangement on its facility at the Water Street marina in Youngstown.

The company plans to offer three mostly enclosed 33-foot boats, offering a dryer experience than Whirlpool Jet Boats, which has operated open boats on the lower Niagara River since the 1990s.

Fox’s 1,700-horsepower boats, ordered from business partner Christopher Bohnenkamp of Meridian, Idaho, will have 22 seats inside and 11 out on the stern.

Fox said the custom-built boats are undergoing minor modifications, but he plans to begin offering rides in September. Depending on ticket sales, the company plans to offer eight trips a day, seven days a week. The price of the rides has not yet been set, Fox said.

The $898,000 project is to create the equivalent of 11 full-time jobs within three years, according to the company’s IDA application. Besides the property tax break, Niagara Jet Adventures received exemptions on mortgage recording tax and also will be exempt from paying sales tax on building materials and equipment.

The IDA staff estimates the incentives will save the company $62,815. Niagara Jet’s annual payroll is estimated at $420,000 once it’s fully staffed.

Also approved was a 10-year PILOT for a boutique hotel to be placed in a vacant two-story office building at 452 Third St. in the Falls.

The developer, Sheikh Elahi, owns the 32-room Budget Motel on Grand Island, and is buying the 4,585-square-foot building, now owned by two residents of Queens, for $155,000. The conversion is to cost an additional $440,000.

His brother, Ozzie Elahi, said today the conversion is expected to begin in October, with the so-far unnamed independent hotel to open in April. It is projected to create the equivalent of four full-time jobs, with an annual $83,000 payroll. The decade-long incentive package, which includes the same sales tax and mortgage tax benefits given to the jet boat company, would save 452 Third $90,948, according to IDA estimates.