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Thread: Has the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency (LIDA) become too restrictive

  1. #1
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    Has the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency (LIDA) become too restrictive

    Village of Lancaster developer Tom Sweeny has a problem. He stated his problem in both the Lancaster Bee and the Buffalo News. He invested a great deal of capital into the development of the Lancaster Village Center project on West Main Street. He has already completed Phase I of his planned three stage project, doing so with the help of tax relief from LIDA.

    The problem is that the initial plans for the development of Phase 2 were dependent upon budgets incorporating tax relief from the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency, says Sweeny in this weeks Lancaster Bee editorial. For Phase 2, the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) program had been agreed upon by the previous administration of the Lancaster IDA; however, we can see through previous meetings that the mindset of the new board will put the project at risk.

    In the Buffalo News today Mr. Sweeny declares he is worried about getting LIDA tax break approval because the mindset of the current board is to resist approving mixed-use project like his and uses the Lucas James Broadway-Bowen mixed-use project as an example of the resistance. Why he is worried is puzzling. The Lucas James project was approved 5-2. The two members who voted no were of the mind that the agency is to support industrial projects or re-adaptive projects that are in the best interest of the community, not the developer. Tax breaks are generally not provided for housing and retail projects. The idea behind that policy is that retail and market-rate-residential projects do not spur as much new spending and spinoff development as commercial or industrial projects.

    It seemed the LIDA board was of the same mind until LIDA member, Village of Lancaster Mayor Lynn Ruda convinced several LIDA members development alone was cause for making projects eligible for inducements taxpayer funded tax breaks. At a time where the economic climate is weak, inflation is still rampant, where 66% of voters voice living paycheck-to-paycheck, taxpayers should not be responsible for subsidizing projects that favor developer best interests over that of the community.

    Mr. Sweeny declares he invested a great deal of capital into the development of the Lancaster Village Center project on West Main Street and claims he cannot complete the project without LIDA tax breaks. He encourages readers in his post: This issue will be up for discussion at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, and up for vote at 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 13. Both meetings will take place at the Town Hall, 21 Central Ave., Lancaster. Please consider taking some time to write a letter or make a phone call to the Lancaster IDA expressing your support for the PILOT program and Phase 2 of the Lancaster Village Center project.

    I would also encourage readers to take an interest in the project and follow Mr. Sweenys plea. I would also encourage those determining this project ineligible to receive tax breaks write to the board. A LIDA member who voted approval for the Lucas James project declared it was a project that would benefit the consumer. Seriously!

    "Too restrictive"? I was hoping for a LIDA board that acted as a watchdog for the Lancaster taxpayer.

    BTW- LIDA member VOL Mayor should recuse herself from voting as she has openly supported this projects IDA eligibility.

  2. #2
    Member gorja's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Lee Chowaniec:
    BTW- LIDA member VOL Mayor should recuse herself from voting as she has openly supported this project’s IDA eligibility.
    An IDA member may not have an opinion about a project prior to a hearing considering that opinion could change depending on information brought forth during a hearing?

    Don't Lemaster and Leary openly state that don't believe mixed use projects should be eligible for IDA tax breaks?

    Georgia L Schlager

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    Quote Originally Posted by gorja View Post
    An IDA member may not have an opinion about a project prior to a hearing considering that opinion could change depending on information brought forth during a hearing?

    Don't Lemaster and Leary openly state that don't believe mixed use projects should be eligible for IDA tax breaks?

    Everyone has a right to an opinion. My post stated my opinion and why you bring Leary or Lemaster into the mix is confusing.

    I have favored mixed-use projects for years and stated so at Lancaster Town Board meetings numerous times. Like many others I agree the Lucas James and Sweeny projects are good projects. However, I believe they should not be eligible for IDA tax breaks. Retail and apartment development, especially market-rate apartment development, do not meet the IDA intent / criteria for inducements just because they are ‘good projects’.

    Ruda has convinced other IDA members that her ‘vision’ encompasses every development project as worthy of eligibility. Both projects are being sold by Ruda as eligible for tax breaks. Her influence is to best serve the Lancaster Village Center project which has already received $4.4 million of federal grant money – taxpayer money as well. Now Sweeny is coming back for his second helping of IDA tax breaks and most likely will be back for a third for Phase III. And Ruda is helping him get those tax breaks.

    Great projects, not worthy of IDAS. You have danced all around this but have never given your opinion whether you find this project worthy of taxpayer subsidization.

    I have witnessed many projects come before LIDA in the past that received approvals and tax breaks that were not in the interest of the community, rather that of the applicant. Taxpayer money wasted. I thought this board was committed to ending those practices. I thought wrong!

  4. #4
    Member gorja's Avatar
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    Origianlly posted by Lee Chowaniec:
    Everyone has a right to an opinion. My post stated my opinion and why you bring Leary or Lemaster into the mix is confusing.
    Due to you posting this -
    BTW- LIDA member VOL Mayor should recuse herself from voting as she has openly supported this project’s IDA eligibility.
    Shouldn't they recuse themselves since they openly are opposed to mixed use properties receiving LIDA benefits.
    Why should one side have to recuse themselves for their opinion and the others not?

    Georgia L Schlager

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    Quote Originally Posted by gorja View Post
    Due to you posting this -


    Shouldn't they recuse themselves since they openly are opposed to mixed use properties receiving LIDA benefits.
    Why should one side have to recuse themselves for their opinion and the others not?


    VOL Mayor Ruda is not only expressing an opinion, she is advocating for IDA approval for projects never meant for IDA approval apartment or retail development.

    VOL Mayor Ruda is heavily involved in the Lancaster Village Center project, has already received $4.4 million in grant money to develop the Village project, has become invested in the Sweeny project as it enhances her plans and is trying to move Sweenys project along with public assistance by moving the goal posts instead of industrial and commerce, all development has become eligible. Whats next on the corporate welfare list.

    Two-thirds of American families report living paycheck-to-paycheck, having to make sacrifices. I have to believe they would tell Mr. Sweeny to sacrifice as well by cutting back on the size and scope of the project to meet his financial liabilities.t.

    You dance around this project never answering my question: Do you favor the Sweeny or James projects receiving LIDA public money for housing / retail projects especially when both projects involve high-end, market rate apartment complexes?

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    Member gorja's Avatar
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    Where in the agenda does it say that the meeting or hearing was starting at 3:30P?

    Bob Thill sold me
    Last edited by gorja; May 9th, 2023 at 04:15 PM.

    Georgia L Schlager

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    Member gorja's Avatar
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    Since the appointment of Jennifer Strong as General Counsel wasn't approved at the May 9th meeting,
    does that mean Mr Zanner stays on as General Counsel or there is no General Counsel?

    Georgia L Schlager

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    Two weeks remain to submit LIDA comments on Sweeny VOL project.

    Thanks to live streaming and LIDA Chair Kevin Lemaster, residents unable to attend and participate in the May 9th public hearing on Tom Sweeny’s receiving tax breaks for his Phase II development project in the Village of Lancaster, have an opportunity to submit comments prior to the June 13th LIDA meeting, where a vote on project approval is expected.

    Considering this project follows along the lines of the Broadway-Bowen Lucas James mixed-use project that was recently approved by a 5-2 vote (Lemaster and Leary voting ‘no’), it seems likely this project will be approved for taxpayer funded tax breaks as well.

    Submitting written comments to the LIDA allows residents to voice whether they believe an apartment-retail, mixed-use project should be eligible for taxpayer funded tax breaks. An upscale 18 market rate apartments with boutique retail shops. Apartments with granite counter tops, Shaker cabinets, upscale flooring, etc.

    We were informed at the public hearing by Mr. Sweeny and his zealous supporters that Mr. Sweeny’s project was worthy, that he was the only developer interested in investing in the Village of Lancaster Center’s development, and his resources are limited (yet his property holdings say otherwise) and he can’t complete the project without LIDA approved tax breaks.

    It is a worthy project. But worthy enough to be considered in the best interest of the community and eligible for taxpayer funded tax breaks? An upscale apartment complex with upscale boutique shops?

    A year ago, it appeared LIDA was committed to approving projects based on merit and community best interests before handing out taxpayer money. something changed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Chowaniec View Post
    Two weeks remain to submit LIDA comments on Sweeny VOL project.

    Thanks to live streaming and LIDA Chair Kevin Lemaster, residents unable to attend and participate in the May 9th public hearing on Tom Sweeny’s receiving tax breaks for his Phase II development project in the Village of Lancaster, have an opportunity to submit comments prior to the June 13th LIDA meeting, where a vote on project approval is expected.

    Considering this project follows along the lines of the Broadway-Bowen Lucas James mixed-use project that was recently approved by a 5-2 vote (Lemaster and Leary voting ‘no’), it seems likely this project will be approved for taxpayer funded tax breaks as well.

    Submitting written comments to the LIDA allows residents to voice whether they believe an apartment-retail, mixed-use project should be eligible for taxpayer funded tax breaks. An upscale 18 market rate apartments with boutique retail shops. Apartments with granite counter tops, Shaker cabinets, upscale flooring, etc.

    We were informed at the public hearing by Mr. Sweeny and his zealous supporters that Mr. Sweeny’s project was worthy, that he was the only developer interested in investing in the Village of Lancaster Center’s development, and his resources are limited (yet his property holdings say otherwise) and he can’t complete the project without LIDA approved tax breaks.

    It is a worthy project. But worthy enough to be considered in the best interest of the community and eligible for taxpayer funded tax breaks? An upscale apartment complex with upscale boutique shops?

    A year ago, it appeared LIDA was committed to approving projects based on merit and community best interests before handing out taxpayer money. something changed.
    LIDA's under the NYS laws was/is to encourage local economic development projects by offering financial incentives to private companies with the goal of increasing job opportunities and overall economic welfare in the area. However, I didn't realize the LIDA has gone in the direction of enhancing upscale projects?

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    Shortstuff wrote:

    LIDA's under the NYS laws was/is to encourage local economic development projects by offering financial incentives to private companies with the goal of increasing job opportunities and overall economic welfare in the area. However, I didn't realize the LIDA has gone in the direction of enhancing upscale projects?
    Nor should IDA’s be involved in handing out taxpayer money for projects that enhance developer best interests over that of the community’s – and in this case the Village of Lancaster and invested parties who disingenuously support the project under the guise that mixed-use market rate apartments and specialty ‘boutique’ shops are ‘destination’ places.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Chowaniec View Post
    Shortstuff wrote:



    Nor should IDA’s be involved in handing out taxpayer money for projects that enhance developer best interests over that of the community’s – and in this case the Village of Lancaster and invested parties who disingenuously support the project under the guise that mixed-use market rate apartments and specialty ‘boutique’ shops are ‘destination’ places.
    How does an IDA “hand out” taxpayer money. I’m curious as to how this is done

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    Tony Fracasso - Admin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Roman View Post
    How does an IDA hand out taxpayer money. Im curious as to how this is done

    Doesn't the county make up the difference when an IDA gives out tax breaks?

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    Quote Originally Posted by WNYresident View Post
    Doesn't the county make up the difference when an IDA gives out tax breaks?

    Make up the difference for what?

    Ex, you own land at the corner of Walden and union, it’s vacant so you pay a few bucks a year in taxes on it.

    Now, you get all crazy and decide that you want to A. stay in NY and B. build a business there, which means you’re really nuts.

    So an IDA, in this case, Erie county IDA has some meetings with you and lawyers and bankers etc.

    In exchange for you spending your and possibly the banks loan money, the IDA makes a deal where you only pay a certain percentage of taxes for a certain amount of years with a drop dead date of whenever.

    Now that vacant land is a thriving business, that’s assessed at let’s say 2 million dollars.

    Now you’re paying say half of what the normal taxes should be or maybe 20-25,000 ish and gradually goes to full after a certain amount of years.

    Now you could have just sat on the land until you sold it or croaked or you really got smart and moved out of NY, and only paid a minimal tax amount on it for as long as you own said land.

    Or, now that you are a thriving “rich” businessman, the poor town, poor county, poor school districts are reaping the tax money from your project, albeit at a reduced amount for a few years but better than before when they got peanuts from your vacant lot filled with stolen grocery carts

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    Member gorja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Roman View Post
    Make up the difference for what?

    Ex, you own land at the corner of Walden and union, its vacant so you pay a few bucks a year in taxes on it.

    Now, you get all crazy and decide that you want to A. stay in NY and B. build a business there, which means youre really nuts.

    So an IDA, in this case, Erie county IDA has some meetings with you and lawyers and bankers etc.

    In exchange for you spending your and possibly the banks loan money, the IDA makes a deal where you only pay a certain percentage of taxes for a certain amount of years with a drop dead date of whenever.

    Now that vacant land is a thriving business, thats assessed at lets say 2 million dollars.

    Now youre paying say half of what the normal taxes should be or maybe 20-25,000 ish and gradually goes to full after a certain amount of years.

    Now you could have just sat on the land until you sold it or croaked or you really got smart and moved out of NY, and only paid a minimal tax amount on it for as long as you own said land.

    Or, now that you are a thriving rich businessman, the poor town, poor county, poor school districts are reaping the tax money from your project, albeit at a reduced amount for a few years but better than before when they got peanuts from your vacant lot filled with stolen grocery carts
    Great explanation. Some people don't understand tha a property was getting squat or taxes being vacant. Then with a business built there the tax income increases even though the taxes are reduced for a few years. The end result the town has increased tax revenue from a formerly vacant property.

    Georgia L Schlager

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Roman View Post
    How does an IDA hand out taxpayer money. Im curious as to how this is done
    Semantics. The revenue lost to state / county / municipal governments by IDA mortgage recording / sales / property tax breaks has to supplanted by the taxpayer.

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