This morning, after much misgiving and discussion, assertions that the project represents smart growth, and declarations that a chain hotel is "crucial" to Columbia County and will help in "selling the county" and "turning it around," the Columbia County Industrial Development Agency voted to grant a PILOT to developer Halbarwart Singh's hotel cum family entertainment center planned for Route 66 in Greenport. It wasn't the PILOT Singh wanted, and it isn't a PILOT that's likely to please property owners in Greenport and Hudson facing an unprecedented increase in the school tax levy, but the members of the IDA seemed pretty pleased with the outcome.
What Singh had requested was a 100 percent property tax abatement on the family entertainment center and the hotel for 20 years. He steadfastly maintained that this tax abatement was necessary if the project was to be economically feasible. What was finally agreed to is a 20-year PILOT with modifications. For the first 10 years, the project gets a 100 percent property tax abatement; for the next 5 years, the $14,000 annual IDA administrative fee will be paid as taxes; and in the final 5 years of the PILOT, Singh will pay taxes on a graduated percentage of the assessment--from 10 percent in the first year to 50 percent in the final year.
Although this morning's meeting was not a public hearing, members of the public were invited to speak at a couple of points. On one such occasion, David Colby, president of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, read from a prepared statement urging the IDA to define the criteria they use in making PILOT decisions. He recommended that the IDA adopt a scorecard that would consider these items:
- A business SIC [Standard Industrial Classification] code that the IDA deems eligible for PILOT benefits
- A minimum number and quality of jobs that make a project eligible
- Points given for adaptive reuse of an existing property
- A value placed on local capital investment that will be made locally as it relates to purchasing materials and employing a local workforce
- A scoring mechanism that encourages financing with local institutions
- Evaluation of the impact the project will make on the greater Columbia County business community