By Jann Wiswall
The 2013-14 New York State Budget Law contains provisions that impact Industrial Development Agencies, said Corey Wiktor, executive director of the County of Cattaraugus Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA), at the April 23 meeting.
Referring to a summary of the law prepared by CCIDA Counsel George Cregg for the board of directors, Wiktor noted that “the most significant” change is the “provision that restores the pre-2008 prohibition of ‘retail’ projects.” Per the law, “no financial assistance shall be provided by IDAs for any project where: i) facilities or property are primarily used in making ‘retail sales’ to customers who personally visit such facilities, and (ii) that facility or property constitutes more than one-third of the total project cost.” For purposes of the law, “retail sales” means “sales by a registered vendor primarily engages in the retails sale of tangible personal property, or sales of a service to … customers.”
Wiktor noted that, despite the definition, the term “retail” is still a bit vague, especially when considering the exemptions from the definition set forth by the Law. These exemptions include 1) tourism destinations, defined as a “location or facility … likely to attract a significant number of visitors from outside the economic development region,” 2) projects located in highly distressed areas, and 3) projects that “make available goods or services which would not, but for the project, be reasonably accessible to the residents of the city, town or village…”
Wiktor said that, to the extent projects fall within those exemptions or can be considered “adaptive reuse” projects, the CCIDA still should be able to provide financial assistance. Adaptive reuse, which refers to adapting old buildings or sites for new uses, is a common goal for many projects in Cattaraugus County, said Wiktor, where many manufacturing sites have been abandoned and structures sit unused for years.
“We’re coming up with policies that, where possible, meet the rules for exemptions or adaptive reuse so we can still help,” Wiktor said.
He also added that the CCIDA will be working more closely with the state in advance to ensure that projects meet the retail prohibition exceptions, and will be requesting more documentation, research and studies from outside experts to support CCIDA’s positions.
The CCIDA Board approved the application for sales tax abatement from Win-Sum Ski Corp. for Holiday Valley’s 2013 plans for improvements, equipment purchase and continuing renovations. Work already has begun on demolition of the former day care building, which will be replaced with the Overlook Terrace, featuring seating, a fireplace and impressive views. Plans also call for the addition of several features to Sky High Adventure Park, improvements to the Inn at Holiday Valley, snowmaking equipment purchases and more. The abatement will save the resort 4 percent in sales taxes on about $2.8 million in eligible purchases.
The board also approved an inducement request from Sprague Development for renovation of the 1887 Building. The plan involves turning the building’s classrooms into approximately 24-26 luxury guest rooms, maintaining the historic character of the exterior and bringing the entire structure back to its original prominence.
Wiktor noted that the IDA’s support and approval of inducements for this project has little impact on whether or not the village approves the project. The biggest stumbling block for the project is still the issue of parking. The village board has indicated that parking areas adjacent to the building cannot legally be designated or leased to the 1887 Building or any other private business because they lie on public land. Wiktor said Sprague Development has hired an outside consultant to do a feasibility study for the project, which will include looking at other options for parking.
“I hope parking gets resolved,” Wiktor said, “because whatever happens to that building in the future, parking is always going to be an issue.” Board member Greg Fitzpatrick agreed, saying that the project “would be highly beneficial for the village.”
The CCIDA Board also approved the sale of 1.6 acres of IDA-owned land in Olean to MJ Painting Contractor Corp. MJ Painting owns commercial property adjacent to this land, which was acquired by the CCIDA some 20 years ago with proceeds from a federal grant. The CCIDA has attempted to sell or lease the parcel since that time, but has had no credible offers, partially due to the fact that the property is considered a brownfield. MJ Painting has offered $10,000 for the property in “as-is” condition and expects to expand its commercial, industrial, natural gas field and transmission station painting business into that space.
The next meeting of the CCIDA Board of Directors will be held Tuesday, June 11 at 11:15 a.m. at the CCIDA offices at 9 East Washington St. in Ellicottville.