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Batavia Council approves pact for economic development fund

BATAVIA – The City Council approved a financial partnership with four other local taxing entities on Monday, setting in motion a unique opportunity to revitalize an economically distressed area of the community, City Manager Jason R. Molino said.

“This is the first of its kind in the state of New York – PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) Increment Financing focusing on brownfield development,” Molino said. “We’re pretty excited about it.”

The Council passed a resolution authorizing the city to enter into an agreement with Genesee County, the Batavia City School District, the Genesee County Economic Development Center and the Batavia Development Corp. that would place 50 percent of new PILOTs generated by redevelopment projects in the 366-acre Batavia Opportunity Area into a dedicated fund.

Payments made by the city, county and school district into the fund would be used to offset extraordinary expenses related to economic development and brownfield redevelopment consistent with the city’s Opportunity Area plan, Molino said.

“We have several potential brownfield projects in the queue and hope to see movement in the next 12 to 24 months,” said Molino, adding that the proposal will go to the county, Genesee County Economic Development Center and Batavia Development Corp. for approval. The School Board already has agreed to participate, he noted.

Investors in the Batavia Opportunity Area would be eligible for tax incentives administered by the GCEDC in conjunction with the BDC.

In other developments:

• Guy Clark, owner of Cedar Street Sales & Rental, asked the Council to look into modifying the zoning laws to permit businesses to change the message of their digital signs more than once a day.

Clark said he had been changing the wording of the 3-by-8-foot digital sign at his business at 111 Cedar St. every 10 seconds or so until he was informed by Code Enforcement Officer Douglas Randall to turn off the sign. He said that Randall recommended he take the matter to the Council.

“I would like to see the law change to allow for new wording every 10 seconds,” Clark said, citing national and local studies that indicate digital signs do not lead to an increase in auto accidents. “I understand there are guidelines, but all we are looking to do is change a script … not have any flashing lights and not gaudy.”

Both Molino and City Attorney George Van Nest pointed to the complexities of zoning laws related to the types of signs – issues with streaming messages, driver safety and aesthetics – and advised the Council to refer the request to the City Planning & Development Committee for review.

Council Member Eugene Jankowski Jr. countered by asking if the board could address only the “timing” issue.

“We already allow digital signs (in the city),” Jankowski said. “The only thing they are asking for is the timing of the message. I don’t understand the complication of all that.”

After some discussion, the board agreed to seek the input of the planning committee and discuss it further at its next conference meeting.