Tonawanda News

August 28, 2013

City, Natale detail Little League plans

Natale holds information session on Little League Drive housing development

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Natale Builders presented their detailed plans for a housing development off Little League Drive Tuesday night at an informational session that dozens of City of Tonawanda residents attended. 

“The proposal is the result of many, many years of hard work,” attorney Laurence Rubin, of Kavinoky Cook LLC, who represented the city in the negotiations with Natale, said at the session. 

Mayor Ron Pilozzi and Natale, the set developer for the property, reached a contract agreement at the end of July, but the council hasn’t approved the plans. The agreement came after almost three years of negotiations with the company and eight weeks of work on the contract itself. 

The document calls for construction of 56 condominium-status homes that will be built in three phases. At least four different models will be available in ranch and two-story designs. The sizes will range from 1,350 square feet to 2,200 square feet, and the homes will cost between $180,000 and $300,000. 

Natale will pay a total of $192,000 for the 16.94-acre property, and will also pay for infrastructure costs at the site, including the installation of roads, water and sewer lines and street lighting. The infrastructure work is estimated to cost between $1.8 million and $2 million. 

“There will be no long-term capital costs for the city, and that is quite an accomplishment,” Rubin said Tuesday. 

In turn for paying for infrastructure costs, Natale requested that the city allow them to classify the homes under the state’s condominium status. 

As a result of the condo status, the homes will be assessed at a reduced rate.

“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,” Rubin explained earlier this year. 

Put simply, homeowners whose properties cost $250,000 to buy will pay taxes as if the home was worth $162,500 — a fact that has angered some homeowners who note those in the development won’t be paying their fair share.

To address that, the city and Natale agreed residents will also pay a condo fee to a homeowners’ association, which will be responsible for most of the site’s snow plowing, street maintenance and garbage pickup.

“That is another cost savings for the city,” he said.

Natale General Manager Larry LaDuca, who pointed to his company’s experience in the industry, said construction on the development, tentatively named Heritage, can begin within six to 12 months. The city will receive an estimated $3 million in real property taxes over 25 years after construction begins, Rubin said. 

Residents who packed into City Hall for the session took issue with the planned condo status, and calling it “tax break.” Others, like Tom Bacon, expressed their concern about a retention pond planned for the property abutting their own homes. 

Roger Puchalski, who has been out outspoken about his concerns, pointed out that the contract doesn’t require Natale to complete phase two and three. He also noted that the city’s original request for proposals ruled out a condominium-status development. 

The City of Tonawanda School District also sent a representative to the meeting. The district’s statement said that its officials have approached the city multiple times regarding an interest in four acres of land at the Little League Drive site. 

“It is our desire to utilize the land for green space, practice fields, soccer fields and potentially an additional softball diamond for the children of the taxpayers who pay a full 100 percent of their taxes,” the statement reads. 

The district again requested that the city meet with officials about a possible arrangement.

Rubin said he hopes the contract will go before the council in September. Further approvals will then be needed from the Army Corps of Engineers for wetland remediation, the New York State Attorney General for condominium status and the Erie County Water Authority for the water line connections.

The city planning board and city engineer will also approve the plans. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.