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Clarion Hotel owner opposes plans for new rooms at Batavia Downs

BATAVIA – The owner of a hotel about a half-mile down the road from Batavia Downs says he is strongly opposed to any tax incentives for a new 82-room hotel at the harness track/gaming facility being considered by the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

Chan Patel, owner of the Clarion Hotel, said on Monday that he was informed three years ago by Christopher J. Suozzi, the center’s vice president of business development, that only tourist-destination hotels were eligible for funding and assistance from the center.

“When I built the (Palm Island Indoor) water park in 2010-11, I received a benefit,” Patel said. “In 2012, I wanted to apply for funding again and Chris Suozzi told me not to because that project would not enhance the water park directly.”

Both the Clarion and Batavia Downs are located on Park Road in the town of Batavia, just west of the city limits.

The new hotel at Batavia Downs is being developed by ADK Hospitality, a Buffalo-based investment group.

Earlier this year, ADK bought 35,000 square feet of property from the Downs for $605,000. The hotel is expected to cost between $5.5 million and $7 million.

Last week, ADK applied for sales tax, mortgage tax and property tax exemptions totaling $638,191. Directors of the economic development center voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing on the request.

The public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. June 22 at the Town of Batavia Hall on West Main Street Road. Patel said he plans to attend.

Patel contends that the draw of the new hotel is its proximity to Batavia Downs. As it stands now, he said, the majority of Downs’ patrons do not stay overnight.

“None of the existing properties (hotels) get more than 10 to 15 rooms a year from the Downs,” he said. “They come to play but they’re not coming to stay and play.”

In a letter to Suozzi obtained by The Buffalo News, Patel’s attorney, Vivek Thiagarajan, stated that “based on the 2012 rationale that was used to stop my client from seeking funding, the GCEDC must deny ADK Hotel from receiving the significant tax breaks and benefits. The ADK Hotel likely will be either a Courtyard by Marriott, a Hilton Garden Inn or a similar chain – not an actual tourist destination.”

Officials of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., owners of Batavia Downs, have said that their plan is to not affiliate with a national hotel chain.

Thiagarajan stated that the new hotel would not draw additional visitors to the location, but would “simply cherry pick from the existing visitor base” and only serve “pre-existing destinations.”

In his letter, he wrote that the Clarion offers the same benefits as the proposed hotel by “furnishing easy walkable access to the Batavia Downs complex.”

“The approval of the funding for ADK Hotel will solely subsidize the efforts to support a new competitor to undercut the Clarion Hotel and other longstanding members of the Batavia community,” he stated. “Clarion Hotel would be injured because … it is being forced to subsidize my client’s direct competition by sharing a higher tax burden to assist an entity that is being created with the intention of poaching my client’s existing visitor base.”

Suozzi would not comment, instead deferring to Rachael J. Tabelski, the economic development center’s director of marketing and communications. Tabelski said the agency will not have any comment until after the public hearing.