The irresistible force paradox asks the question, “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” Here in New Paltz we can paraphrase this by asking, “What happens when a unanimous vote of the Town of New Paltz Planning Board meets a unanimous opposing vote of the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency?”
Due to recent events, this is not an abstract metaphysical or philosophical question. It is an event taking place in the real world where real money is being spent and where one side is seeking to maximize its profits while the other is being asked to subsidize those profits. The matter around which this event revolves is the proposed Park Point project of developer Wilmorite, Inc. The assessed value for this project is estimated by the Town of New Paltz assessor to be $44 million. The “full tax” proposal submitted by Wilmorite requires that the project be assessed at approximately $11 million. Assuming the assessor’s estimate to be correct, the developer’s proposed payment would be only 25% of the full taxes due on that assessment. Wilmorite has stated that if the assessment is more than $11 million, the project won’t be built.
Last week, the Town of New Paltz Planning Board voted unanimously to make any site plan or subdivision plan for the 732-bed, commercial rental housing project contingent on full taxation. Less than 48 hours later the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency voted unanimously to grant the developer a 70% discount in real estate taxes over a 25-year period.
A close friend and scientist with a specialty in materials science and physics helped me understand the irresistible force paradox that seems to apply to this situation. It turns out that physical laws of science can help us understand what happens when two legitimate, duly constituted governmental agencies conflict. In physics, there is the “law of thermodynamics,” which states simply that, due to the concept of conservation of mass and energy, no paradox in fact exists at all. In actuality, any unstoppable or immovable force will either have to change or transmit energy, like those steel balls in desktop pendulums. If neither object gives way, bending will occur in both and heat energy will be released. Don’t give up on me yet; I’m getting to the point.
Many have been asking this week, given these opposing votes, what happens now? Wilmorite got its tax discount from the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency, but the New Paltz Planning Board is requiring that the project be taxed in full. The situation is now in stalemate and the question is, how will this stalemate be resolved? One answer of course is in the courts. If the legal process takes over, it would represent an outside force, not one dictated by the law of thermodynamics. It would also mean that those who have been following the Wilmorite/SUNY New Paltz/JAM of New Paltz, Inc. saga, will find themselves reading about activities taking place in a courtroom rather than the meeting rooms of the town and village boards of New Paltz.
Another possible solution is that the moral and ethical values of Mr. Thomas C. Wilmot and his family could come into play. An added advantage of this outcome for the taxpayers of our community would be the savings in legal costs. In public hearings, Wilmorite’s attorneys have described the company as a ‘family-owned business’ that simply wants to come to New Paltz and be “the biggest taxpayers in town.’ Mr. Wilmot is the chairman of the board of this family-owned business. Well, Mr. Wilmot, I appeal to you on behalf of all those citizens of New Paltz who would love to welcome you and your project into our community. Come to our town, comply with our Planning Board’s conditions on your site plan and subdivision approval and pay your fair share of taxes. Under such circumstances you will likely receive a very warm welcome. I’m sure you can appreciate how difficult it is for our community to understand how your company can contemplate spending $350 million on a casino, spa and convention center in the Finger Lakes yet expect us to pay a 75% share of the real estate taxes on your New Paltz project. Come on, Mr. Wilmot, do the right thing here.