Opponents of the proposed 732-bed, Park Point New Paltz rental complex had a few reasons to celebrate last week. The first of which was a decision by the New Paltz Town Planning Board.
Board members — who are finishing up the environmental review of the college housing project — voted to ask their attorney to construct a SEQRA findings statement on Park Point, asking that the project be fully taxed.
Park Point developer Wilmorite is before the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) looking for a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement on 10 of the 13 apartment buildings in their proposed $56 million complex.
If assessed at $49 million, Park Point New Paltz would pay $1.5 million in property taxes each year, according to town officials.
The developer wants to pay roughly $102,000 in the first year of the 25-year-long tax deal. Under Wilmorite’s PILOT proposal, those payments would ratchet up to about $305,000 by the end.
Taxation has been a big issue for New Paltzians. Local taxpayers don’t want costs shifted to them by a county-level agreement. New Paltz’s elected officials think Park Point would place stress on local police, firefighters and ambulance services. Rival landlords think a tax break could create an unfair advantage for the Rochester-based firm.
Wilmorite wants to build Park Point on 50 acres next to SUNY New Paltz’s campus on Route 32. Most of that land — 42 acres — is owned by the non-profit SUNY New Paltz Foundation. They’d lease the land for the long haul to Wilmorite, which would build and manage Park Point. The other 8 acres is owned by JAM of New Paltz, a group that plans to give the developer extra space to build $4.5 million of water and sewer infrastructure.
SUNY New Paltz administrators and professors like the idea of the complex, which they believe will help transfer students find housing near campus.
Planning Board members voted 6-0 to start work on that findings statement, which seeks to have Park Point fully taxed. That document should be ready in time for the Jan. 13 meeting.
New Paltz Board of Education members also weighed in on the PILOT controversy. School board members voted 5-2 to approve a resolution stating their opposition to all future PILOT agreements “that result in a reduction of real property taxes versus full taxation” that come before the county IDA.
Board members did so because the state’s 2 percent tax cap law effectively penalizes school districts with new PILOT agreements.
A final paragraph in that resolution was taken out — to the objection of board members Patrick Rausch and Stephen Bagley.
The paragraph at issue said that the school board “calls upon the New York State Legislature, the New York State Education Department and the New York State Comptroller to work together to modify the existing formula for the calculation of the tax levy limit to eliminate and/or mitigate the negative consequences of PILOTs on school districts’ tax levy limits.”
Bagley and Rausch said they didn’t vote no on the resolution because they disagreed with its message. They just really wanted that redacted final paragraph to be in the version approved by the Board of Education.
While some school board members, namely Tim Rogers, thought the third paragraph distracted from the message of the overall resolution, Rausch thought they needed it in so the state knew how to help them.
“It says, ‘We want you guys to go change it too. Fix it,’” he said.
Rogers, who helped draft the measure with school board vice president Ruth Quinn, was unhappy the board couldn’t vote unanimously on the measure.
“Would you have voted for that if that was in there?” Rogers asked Stephen Bagley, the board president.
“Absolutely,” Bagley said.
Rogers didn’t really understand where his colleagues were coming from. “I hear the point that you’re making, but I don’t know why you would vote against the resolution. That’s just really disturbing.”
Bagley said he felt it was important to give state officials a directive to action — not just tell the Ulster County IDA how they felt about PILOTs.
Superintendent Maria Rice suggested that perhaps the school board consider passing a second resolution in the near future that addressed the sentiments expressed in that missing paragraph.
School officials don’t take positions on developments in New Paltz as a matter of policy. They were careful to craft their statement on PILOTs so that it address all developments — not just Park Point.
Town and village government officials already sent word to the IDA that they’re against granting Park Point a tax break.
The Ulster County IDA will hold a public hearing for Park Point’s PILOT on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 7 p.m., in the auditorium at New Paltz High School.