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Jefferson County approves PILOT

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The Jefferson County Legislature on Tuesday night approved a tax break for a company looking to bring 394 apartments to the town of Watertown.

Morgan Management’s project off County Route 202 already has been approved by the Watertown Town Council; all that’s left is Watertown City School District approval, which has provided the most difficult hurdle for tax breaks in the past.

“I’m pretty excited about this,” said Legislator Robert D. Ferris, R-Watertown. “Hopefully, the school board goes along with it.”

The Legislature voted 12-0 to approve the project. Legislators Scott A. Gray and Steven T. Harter were absent; Legislator Michael F. Astafan, who took office in January, abstained because he was not involved in the negotiations, he said.

The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal would exempt the houses from 50 percent of property taxes in the first 10 years. It also includes a 1 percent cap on increases in assessed value from years 12 to 15 of the deal.

With an expected influx of Fort Drum soldiers, the Watertown area is facing a housing shortage reaching crisis levels.

But quick action has reduced the shortage to about 300, if current projects are included in the Army’s estimate on the housing shortage.

County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III said several negotiations for smaller projects are in the works. A fifth phase of the Eagle Ridge project in LeRay could bring in 39 additional units, and a developer is looking at bringing about 90 units to Sackets Harbor, Mr. Hagemann said.

Some of those projects are for bigger apartments — the four-bedroom styles that Army advocates have said they need, Mr. Hagemann said.

The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency also is in the beginning phases of discussions with four or five other companies, Mr. Hagemann said.

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