California developer Fidelity Holdings Corp. has submitted a site plan to the town of LeRay that features 213 multifamily townhouse rental units planned off Route 11 near Fort Drum.
But while town officials are mostly pleased with the site plan, Fidelitys plan to ask for a tax break of 10 or more years could be tough to swallow for three taxing jurisdictions: the town, Indian River Central School District and Jefferson County.
In July, LeRays Planning Board is expected to take its first look at Fidelitys plan for the Common at Flemings Farm. Fidelity owns 347 acres on the north side of Taylor Road, a mile-long connector under construction that is expected to be open to traffic this fall. It will link Johnson Road at the Walmart intersection to Kestrel Drive, which will extend north from Eagle Ridge Village.
Historically, the Town Council has never approved a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for more than five years, said Steven T. Harter, the LeRay supervisors administrative clerk, who retired Friday. Along with providing developers a break on property taxes, PILOT deals remove properties from the tax roll.
I dont see the town or Indian River going longer than three to five years in this deal, Mr. Harter said. Id be surprised if its longer than that.
As a case in point, last year the Town Council initially rejected a five-year tax break sought by ReEnergy LLC for its biomass plant on Fort Drum; the board accepted the tax break only after negotiating a separate deal with ReEnergy to recoup sales tax it would have lost.
The developers tax-break request will be negotiated with taxing jurisdictions by the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency. It comes at a time, though, when the need for 1,035 market-rate rental units calculated by the Army in 2011 to address a housing shortage has been met thanks to a handful of projects approved in the past two years. With the exception of the Fidelity project, in April the JCIDAs board of directors decided it would not consider granting housing developers tax breaks in the future.
A tax break wont be sought for another major housing project being planned in LeRay by Michigan developer Management Resources Development. That project, also targeting military families, is planned on land a half mile south of Route 342 on the west side of Route 11, owned by Robert P. Gillespie.
Linda W. Luther, principal for Fidelity, said Friday the developer will seek a tax break of at least 10 years.
Ms. Luther bought the land from Lyle C. and Eleanor B. Fleming, who operated a dairy farm there for 44 years. She said the site plan now includes an 8-acre nature preserve to protect the habitat of the Indiana brown bat, required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Townhouses will be two to four units each and feature three different styles: farmhouse, colonial and cape.
The houses are in keeping with the Flemings farm theme and rural nature of the area, Ms. Luther said.
Though negotiations on the tax break deal havent begun yet, Mr. Luther said, talks with LeRay officials about the development have been positive. She said she hopes the project will get a final stamp of approval from the town in about eight months. That timeline would allow construction to start in early 2014.
The town likes the overall design for the townhouses, Mr. Harter said, which would be in small neighborhood clusters. Minor changes have to be made to streets so that snowplows and school buses are provided safe access to the site.
The town is spending over $1 million to build the new road out there, and wed like to have a new development that will lead to more growth, Mr. Harter said.
Because the developers own land that intersects Taylor Road, Fidelity and Columbia Development, Albany, will make capital contributions of $150,000 and $260,000 toward the construction of the mile-long connector. Columbia owns property to the immediate east of Fidelity.