Tonawanda News

Local News

November 29, 2013

Council vote on South Junior, Walnut Avenue projects draws puzzlement, anger

Tonawanda News — The Niagara Falls City Council has rejected tax break agreements for two of three agencies looking to move forward on housing projects throughout the city.

The council defeated payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements for proposed projects from two out-of-town agencies — both with only one no vote — and approved a 40-year PILOT on a joint project from developer Norstar and the Niagara Falls Housing Authority during Monday’s city council meeting.

The two agencies that were denied tax agreements — CB Emmanuel Realty, LLC and Housing Visions, Inc. — have both proposed projects that would include the conversion of long-vacant school board-owned buildings into apartments.

Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. was absent from the meeting, home with an illness, meaning that three of the four council members present need to cast a yes vote for each measure to pass.

Councilman Sam Fruscione abstained on the two votes involving school district-owned property, but provided the necessary third vote on the Norstar project, while Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti and Councilman Charles Walker voted yes on all three agreements and Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian voted no on all of the agreements.

Choolokian said he did not like the duration of the agreements, with the CB Emmanuel Realty seeking a 30-year PILOT for their project at the former South Junior High School Building and Housing Visions seeking a 20-year PILOT for the agency’s proposed Walnut Avenue project.

“The PILOTs were definitely too long,” Choolokian said. “That bothered me and if I’m not comfortable with something I’m going to vote no.”

Choolokian said the city is too quick to give out tax breaks or other concessions to entities looking to do business in Niagara Falls.

“It’s like the city of Niagara Falls is in the business of paying somebody to do anything here,” he said. “If it’s building something, if it’s just moving here, it seems like we’re desperate.”

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