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Talks to begin with Morgan, Albany developer for area housing projects

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One down, two more to go.

Now that an agreement has been worked out with COR Development Co., talks will shift to tax-abatement programs for apartment complexes that Morgan Management of Pittsford and Dawn Homes of Albany want to construct in Jefferson County.

Representatives from Jefferson County, the county Industrial Development Agency, the Watertown City School District and the town of Watertown are meeting for the first time Friday to discuss a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with Morgan Management for a 394-unit apartment complex that would be built on County Route 202.

Officials met last week in “preliminary talks” with representatives from Dawn Homes about a PILOT agreement for Jefferson Apartments, planned for the town of LeRay, said Donald C. Alexander, CEO of JCIDA.

He told members of JCIDA’s Loan Review Committee on Tuesday that he hopes it will not be as difficult as getting the 10-year deal worked out between the three taxing jurisdictions and COR Development for its 296-unit Beaver Meadow complex that will be built behind the Target store on Route 3.

The next two agreements should not be quite as cumbersome or as time-consuming because they already have COR’s $1.5 million agreement under their belt, Mr. Alexander said, adding that he’s optimistic about how Friday’s talks will go.

“We have not ironed out all the details, but we have a fairly good idea what they are,” he told the committee.

Committee members said the Morgan Management project could lead to a mixture of development along Route 202 because water and sewer infrastructure would be in place.

Mr. Alexander told members of the committee that Dawn Homes has reduced the number of units from 402 to 330 over several phases because of financing issues.

Despite that development, JCIDA is well on its way to helping create additional housing for returning Fort Drum soldiers, Mr. Alexander said. He said local economic development leaders are putting together a list of housing projects — including even the smallest projects with the fewest units — that have been proposed in the county.

Fort Drum officials have said that 1,035 new apartments are required to fulfill the over-arching need of housing for soldiers returning from Afghanistan.

Responding to criticism, committee members also reiterated Tuesday that the housing projects will benefit the community for the long term, even though developers receive a tax break.

As they did with the Fayetteville-based COR, each of three taxing jurisdictions must approve the PILOT agreements with Morgan and Dawn Homes. It took some compromises to get the school district finally to agree to COR’s deal by a 5-2 vote last week.

A public hearing will be held on that PILOT at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Watertown Town Hall, and the full IDA board is expected to approve it at its Jan. 5 meeting.

“We all worked very hard on it,” Mr. Alexander said.

JCIDA officials also continue to put together a resolution that would give the agency authority to approve PILOT agreements, rather than getting the taxing jurisdictions to approve deals separately. Committee members learned Tuesday that, if approved, it would take a “supermajority” of board members, or five votes, to give a developer a PILOT agreement.

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