Tuesday, July 20, 2021

News from the IDA

The special meeting of the IDA (Industrial Development Agency) yesterday was actually a meeting of the Governance Committee--a committee made up of just three people: Mayor Kamal Johnson, Council Majority Leader Tiffany Garriga, and Council Minority Leader Rebecca Wolff, who chairs the committee. The purpose of the meeting, as explained by Wolff, was to explore "how the Governance Committee would put together a more enlightened and informed process for reviewing PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) requests and negotiating terms." Mike Tucker, president and CEO of Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC), restated the goal as creating "some semblance of policy so that every project is not a deviation."   

At 1:00 p.m., when the meeting began, Wolff was the only member of the committee present, so Tucker was called upon to talk about the Hudson IDA and its recent history until other members of the committee showed up. Tucker recounted how in 2015, the NYS Authorities Budget Office recommended that, because of its lack of activity, the Hudson IDA should be absorbed by the Columbia County IDA. Tucker advised against it. As he pointed out yesterday, it would have meant that the county would have been making decisions about development in Hudson, determining which projects would be encouraged. 

Of particular interest in what Tucker had to say was that an Ulster County court case had determined that IDA financing was not an "as of right" benefit. He mentioned that some projects proposed at the county level had turned down IDA assistance because they could finance through farm credit without the additional closing costs and the risk of clawback if the project did not deliver what had been promised in terms of employment and other economic benefits. He also mentioned Section 485-b of the New York State Property Tax Law, which he said "gives similar benefits to [those of the IDA] without the drawbacks."

When Johnson arrived, more than half an hour into the meeting, the real stuff of the meeting began: a presentation by Ted De Barbieri and Keith Hirokawa, two professors from Albany Law School who have a consulting firm called Living Communities Consultants, LLC. The consultants were recruited by Wolff and asked to produce "a process by which the Hudson Industrial Development Authority board can review PILOT applications submitted by developers, and a scoring rubric that the Hudson Industrial Development Authority board can use to score PILOT applications with an eye towards social equity."

In the presentation and discussion, De Barbieri talked about "ways the IDA can activate new population and new interest from developers." Later, he spoke of "looking for ways to grow the number of projects that come before the IDA." Wolff commented, "The thing we most need is to understand the potentials of our powers . . . a clear sense of our options." 

It was determined that the Governance Committee would make a recommendation to the full IDA board to retain the consultants. The first phase of the project would be "analyzing a representative group of uniform PILOT policies and conducting review with respect to social and/or economic criteria." For this, the consultants would be paid $425.00 an hour for an estimated 7 to 12 hours. Tucker commented, "It's a good thing $47,000 was paid by 620 Union Street so the IDA has funds to get [this] started."

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