By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
CITY OF TONAWANDA — After months of contentious council meetings and executive sessions, the city has tentatively agreed to terms with Natale Builders for the housing development off of Little League Drive, and more details about the plans continue to emerge.
At the city’s meeting last week, Council President Carleton Zeisz said Natale is set to pay $192,000 for the land and will also be responsible for the site’s infrastructure costs.
If the plan remains as is, the development would also have a homeowners’ association and would be classified under the state’s 339-Y status, according to Laurence K. Rubin, of Kavinoky Cook LLP, who has been representing the city in the negotiations.
“Under 339, it says that the assessed evaluation has to be determined in such a specific way,” Rubin said. “The result of assessing it that way is that it comes in at about 65 percent of the construction value. Those evaluated at 100 percent with comparable value of construction would be paying more in taxes.”
Put simply, homeowners whose properties cost between $225,000 and $250,000 to buy, would pay taxes as if the home was worth between $146,250 and $162,500.
As a result, the development will be less profitable to the city’s tax base.
The city’s decision to agree to the use of a homeowners’ association came as a result of negotiations that centered on who would pay the estimated $1.5 million for the development’s infrastructure, including sewer and water lines.
“Natale was agreeable to pick up that cost if he could make the homes more marketable and attractive,” Rubin said. “A lower tax bill certainly does that.”
Zeisz also said the homeowners association, not the city, will be responsible for services like the upkeep of roads, garbage and street lights.
“You have to take that into account when talking about taxes,” he said.
However, the original request for proposal document for the project states “the city does not desire the establishment and existence of a homeowners association,” and also requested “plans to design/construct and finance required infrastructure.”
It was also stated that the city would consider “proposals that address financing of infrastructure and price the developer is prepared to pay for land as a package.”
However, with negotiations taking place with Natale over the past two years over the infrastructure costs, many residents have asked the council to send out another RFP, in hopes to get a developer who would agree to pay for the infrastructure more readily.
Some council members agreed.
“The RFP was done a certain way, and if we are going to change the rules, we need to make it open for everyone,” Councilwoman Heather Little said.
But the council stuck with Natale.
“If we had sent out for another RFP, it wouldn’t have looked good for us because we had spent so much time investing in the agreement with Natale,” Zeisz said. “It’s up to us to work out a deal that is good for everyone.”
The resolution approving the mayor to move forward with Natale was rushed in right before the council’s meeting last week.
“I found out it would be on the agenda when I walked in the door,” Little said.
Little was the lone dissenter against the resolution, and although she said she isn’t against the development, she does not support how the process has been handled.
She submitted 24 questions to Rubin about the development’s plans, but his answers made it clear that a majority of the contract’s terms still needs to be hammered out.
Items still to be determined include the timelines construction, who the property would revert to in case of default, the homeowner association fees and whether curbs will be installed.
Zeisz said last week he was planning a public meeting for the week 7 p.m. Nov. 27 that would allow the council to present contract terms to
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.