The Woodstock Town Board and town residents filled the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center Thursday, February 1 to voice their opposition to requested tax breaks of $527,539 for the Woodstock Way 23-unit hotel. The public hearing was conducted by IDA member John Livermore, of Saugerties and attorney Joe Scott.
The project, already underway on a 2.4-acre parcel along the Tannery Brook at the end of Waterfall Way behind the Center for Photography, is seeking the tax relief through a payment in-lieu-of taxes, or PILOT, administered by the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency, for five new buildings on the property, not yet begun. Under the program, additional taxes on improvements made to the property are phased in over 10 years. No additional taxes would be due for the first three years, then improvements would be taxed at 25 percent for two years, then 50 percent for five years.
County, local and school tax savings for the 10-year period would total $305,341. The developers are also seeking $198,000 in sales tax relief and a waiver of $24,198 in mortgage taxes.
The current tax bill without additional improvements is $17,671.
Town Supervisor Bill McKenna read a letter opposing the PILOT signed by all Town Board members. In stating the town’s position, the letter says the project is welcome, but that is not the issue at question.
“Rather, the question centers on whether they are deserving of a large tax break — a tax break that others who have similarly invested in Woodstock have not received,” reads the letter.
The town board’s letter further states the need for lodging is debatable, listing the Woodstock Inn on the Millstream, The Lodge, Twin Gables, the White Dove, Village Green Bed & Breakfast, DeForest House, Woodstock Holistic Bed & Breakfast and 300 private homes listed on short-term rental sites.
It also questions whether a tax savings is needed to attract such development. “Woodstock is not an economically depressed area. One only needs to look at the Planning Board agenda to see that many people and groups are investing in properties and businesses in our town.”
While most who spoke were not opposed to the project, a majority raised questions about the amount of tax relief in relation to the number of jobs created, which is listed as four full-time and four part-time once construction is completed.
Partner Ryan Giuliani said without the tax assistance, five of the seven planned new buildings will not be constructed. Two of the buildings are already underway with plans to renovate an existing structure. The hotel is expected to open in May 2019.
Giuliani said he agrees with the need for affordable housing, but the project is not reducing it. He noted many of the structures on the property were in such poor shape when he and his partner Jesse Halliburton, purchased the property under the name Tannery Brook Real Estate in 2014.
The agency can be contacted by mail at PO Box 4265, Kingston, NY 12402-4265, by email: email@example.com or phone: 845-340-3556.
The agency board will vote on the matter at its 8 a.m. February 14 meeting on the 6th floor at the Ulster County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston.