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Tonawanda approves tax break criticized elsewhere

The City of Tonawanda will begin to participate in a program that offers lucrative tax breaks for mixed-use projects but critics say is too easy for developers to manipulate.

The Common Council recently adopted the state's 485-a property tax exemption.

Supporters say the program encourages construction of residential and commercial space in vacant or little-used buildings. The exemption applies only to the increase in property value that results from redevelopment and it ends after 12 years.

Tonawanda City Assessor David Marrano said cities statewide have successfully used the exemption and in Buffalo, for example, it's spurred redevelopment of warehouses on the West Side and in South Buffalo.

Critics say developers have earned valuable tax breaks by adding just one apartment to an otherwise entirely commercial building, following the law's letter but not its spirit.

Mayor Rick Davis said several buildings that otherwise could become eyesores should benefit from the program and Tonawanda officials will work to avoid any abuses by developers.

Use of controversial tax break by developers in Buffalo continues to grow

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