Tonawanda News — City of Tonawanda leaders were right this week to sever ties with Natale Builders in relation to the controversial housing development on Little League Drive.
Voters spoke clearly last year in council races and in the mayoral race they did not approve of the deal negotiated by the city’s former mayor, Ron Pilozzi. While we’ve been on record questioning whether the controversial condominium status the deal would have granted the homes was fair, there were elements of the deal that would have benefited taxpayers.
The condo status would have meant owners of the new homes on some of the nicest real estate in the city would have paid taxes on just 60 percent of the value of their homes. Considering some of the homes were projected to sell for $300,000 — far above the median home price in Tonawanda — residents who have spent a lifetime paying taxes to support the city and its school district made a convincing case the deal wasn’t fair to them.
Still, there exists many reasons to support development of this parcel. Proponents of the deal, including the private counsel Pilozzi hired to represent the city in its dealings with Natale, noted the project is a boon to urban planning efforts. It builds largely on existing infrastructure and what infrastructure needed to be built would have happened at the developer’s cost, not taxpayers’.
It also stands to reason if the housing market locally really has turned a corner, the home features people seek — modern floor plans, energy efficiency, etc. — are difficult to find in new builds that also exist in an already populated area. The homes would have meant families who otherwise might consider building in far-flung places would have come to Tonawanda instead, combatting the increasing problem of urban sprawl.
The fact remains, if a suitable deal couldn’t be reached after four years of haggling, it was never going to happen. It was time to move on.
So now we’re back to square one with city officials drafting a new request for proposals to be sent out in the coming months.
It is now up to Mayor Rick Davis and his Democratic allies on the council to find a better deal. They think they can.
We hope they’re right.