Tonawanda News

April 2, 2014

City severs ties with Natale

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The City of Tonawanda has severed ties with Natale Builders after four years of negotiations on the proposed development of the Little League Drive property, Mayor Rick Davis said Tuesday. 

“Ultimately I couldn’t come to an agreement that I was comfortable with and that a supermajority of the council would agree to,” he said. 

The city tapped Natale in 2010 and the two parties reached a contract agreement at the end of July. The document called for the construction of 56 condominium-status homes ranging in cost from $180,000 to $300,000. 

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

Natale requested that the city allow them to classify the homes under the state’s condominium status, so the homes would 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 last year. 

Put simply, homeowners whose properties cost $250,000 to buy will pay taxes as if the home was worth $162,500. Many angry residents argued that the new homeowners wouldn’t be paying their fair share. 

After the 2013 election, Democrats who spoke out against the contract took control of three of the council’s five seats, and four votes are required to sell city land. Although Davis attempted to negotiate the contract with the company, he said his efforts were not successful. 

“I felt it was best to cut ties and start over as soon as possible,” he said. 

But Davis stressed that developing the vacant property is necessary for the city’s growth.

“We need to put the land on the tax rolls in order not to exceed the cap or raise taxes ... This doesn’t mean that we don’t intend on developing the parcel. Nothing could be farther from the truth,” Davis said. “We still intend on moving forward.”

Davis said he and the council will work on tweaking the original request for proposals that was issued in 2009. A new request will be sent out within two to three weeks, and Davis said he’s optimistic a new development project will benefit the city. 

“We believe the City of Tonawanda offers significant benefits to developers and potential homeowners,” he said. “Our economy and housing market have turned the corner, and we hopefully will garner interest in development of the property.” 

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