Here’s an idea. When you receive your next tax bill from the town, tell the tax collector that you think the assessment is too high and make a counter offer. What’s to lose? If the tax collector doesn’t agree, ask the town to consider the fact that your offer, meager as it is, is certainly better than nothing. Think it’ll work? Wilmorite certainly hopes so, as it attempts to persuade the towns of New Paltz, Gardiner and Esopus, along with the residents of Ulster County, to accept its insulting offer of a $550,000 tax payment for its Park Point project, an amount that would save the developer in excess of $40 million over the next 25 years if its commercial town, school and county property taxes were reduced by the two-thirds their offer represents. Other taxpayers like you and me would make up the difference. Furthermore, our assessor has projected an assessment of $44 million for the completed project. Wilmorite is demanding that the completed project be assessed at $11 million. As a favorite uncle of mine used to say, “Such a deal!”
When the New Paltz Town Planning Board denied site plan approval for the project, Wilmorite decided to sue. Its Park Point ‘partner’, the SUNY New Paltz Foundation, has joined them in the lawsuit. Both entities have recently chosen to present their side of the issue in full-page ads which have appeared in various local newspapers.
One such ad points out that the project site currently pays $0 property taxes and asks why town residents would prefer $0 taxes to the $550,000 being offered by Wilmorite. The answer is quite simple. Right now the 42-acre parcel in question does not cost the town, the school district or the county one red cent, so what does it really matter that no taxes are being generated? There are no humans on the property, therefore no municipal services are required. But what about after Park Point is built? That would be a different story, and those who made the decision not to approve the project did so in part because they determined that the annual cost of municipal services required by the new residents would far outweigh the measly $550,000 being offered by Wilmorite.
The developer goes on to claim that it is ‘addressing a need’ for student housing on the SUNY New Paltz campus. While numbers show that other SUNY campuses do indeed, by a small percentage, have more dormitory rooms available per student than New Paltz, neither the Planning Board, the board of directors of the SUNY New Paltz Foundation, nor any of the rest of us has ever been presented with factual, research-based data demonstrating a true ‘need’ for more dormitory beds at New Paltz. In fact, most of the data presented to the Planning Board by its consultants during the project review process, and supported by input from local residents during public hearings, showed that ample housing exists in our community for student rental, and that a sudden glut of single occupancy rooms would adversely affect the local economy. It is simply a question of supply and demand.
By the way, when the SUNY New Paltz senior administrators, led by college president Don Christian, were first pleading their case, they chose not to reveal the fact that a brand new 225-bed student residence, paid for by the New York State Dormitory Authority, would shortly be under construction on the campus. I find this more than a little disingenuous. So whatever ‘need’ existed when Wilmorite first began to hatch its deal with JAM of New Paltz, Inc. and the SUNY New Paltz Foundation, has been reduced by 225 beds. The stated ‘need’ for Park Point was 725 beds. A new 225-bed student residence is now being built, so why hasn’t the number of beds for the Park Point project been reduced to 500? Answer: this is a commercial, for-profit development project, and more beds mean more rental income, and more rental income means more profit. The higher Wilmorite’s profit, the better it can feel about those generous lease payments it will be making to the SUNY New Paltz Foundation. Such a deal!
Is there a difference between ‘apartments’ and ‘dormitories’? According to the Town of New Paltz Building Inspector, the answer is yes. Our local zoning code does not permit ‘dormitories’ or ‘student housing’ on the 42-acre site owned by the SUNY New Paltz Foundation on Route 32 South so, in its application to the Planning Board for the Park Point project, Wilmorite classified the housing as ‘rental apartments’, a permitted use on that property. The problem with that is that the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA), to which Wilmorite applied for tax relief for Park Point, cannot grant tax relief for rental apartments so, in a real feat of legerdemain, Wilmorite persuaded UCIDA that the development should be considered a ‘dormitory’, and they got their tax relief. Such a deal!
Ah, but the sticking point is that the Planning Board, the Town Board, the board of the New Paltz Central School District, the New Paltz Village Board, the Gardiner Town Board, the Ulster County Comptroller and the Association of Ulster County Supervisors have all determined that the only deal that works for New Paltz is full taxation for Park Point. The petitioners in the lawsuit against our Planning Board are the only ones for whom less than full taxation would be a good deal. According to an affidavit filed by Michael A. Moriello, Esq., those petitioners are Wilmorite, Inc.; SUNY New Paltz Foundation, Inc.; Park Point New Paltz, LLC; Goshawk, LLC; JAM of New Paltz, Inc.; Michael A. Moriello; and Jean Moriello.
These five entities and two individuals are looking for a good deal. Is it too much to ask that Park Point be a good deal for all the taxpayers of our community and county and not just those suing our Planning Board?
I’d very much appreciate hearing what our readers think about this issue. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.