Thursday, March 24, 2011
The Public Hearing on Greenport Crossing
Yesterday the Columbia County Industrial Development Agency held a public hearing on Greenport Crossing, Harbalwant Singh's plan to build a retail center, made up of a gas station, a liquor store, and an A & W drive-thru restaurant; a "bowling-anchored" family entertainment center; and a Comfort Suites hotel on Route 66 in Greenport, on the site of the old V & O Press building. Turnout for the hearing was smaller than expected, and the objections to the project and the PILOT less fervent than the opposition to the PILOT for Kohl's. Maybe it's because people see a greater need for a hotel in Columbia County than for a lackluster department store, or perhaps it's because this PILOT request seems so outrageous--a 100 percent property tax abatement for 20 years--that nobody thinks there's much chance the IDA will grant it. Whatever the reason, only seven people commented at the public hearing, and none spoke in support of the PILOT.
Andrew Amelinckx was at the hearing, and his account of what happened is in today's Register-Star: "Officials not so hot in PILOT for new hotel." One thing Amelinckx doesn't mention, however, may be the most interesting revelation of the hearing.
In a presentation to the IDA in February, Singh made reference to green cards, and yesterday at the public hearing, First Ward Alderman Sarah Sterling asked about that. Singh explained that the US Citizen and Immigration Service has a program that grants permanent residency--green cards--to foreign nationals who invest in a new commercial enterprise in the United States. The amount required to qualify is typically $1 million, but in areas where the unemployment rate in 150 percent the national average and in rural areas, the required investment is $500,000. It seems that Singh had been considering financing his project, which is estimated to cost a total of $20.8 million, with these kinds of investments, but Ken Flood, Columbia County Commissioner for Planning and Economic Development, was quick to point out that all the investors in the project are local.