Irondequoit, N.Y.— An Irondequoit Town Board meeting lasted into the night on Tuesday as the town board sparred with the developer of I-Square.
Town officials, developer Mike Nolan and Irondequoit residents spent nearly three hours discussing the project. Nolan plans to invest $12 million dollars of his own money to build seven mixed-use buildings at the corner of Titus and Cooper Road in Irondequoit.
However, Nolan is hoping that COMIDA, or the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency, would award the project a 25-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) with a tax rate set at $104,000 and a 0.5% increase each year. Nolan can only apply for the tax break with the approval of the town, but the idea doesn’t sit well with the Irondequoit Town Board.
The board members grilled Nolan over the lack of a business plan or benchmarks for the project. Some of the board members thought a 25-year PILOT was too long.
Nolan says he doesn’t want a specific business plan or benchmarks to lock him into a deadline.
“If [the town] puts everything in there as benchmarks then they will say, I have to build a building on such and such a day. I have to do this, and I have to do that, and pin me down to a schedule. We're building I-Square for fun because we love Irondequoit, but I don't want to be put on a schedule.”
Nolan used Greece Ridge Mall as a comparison. The mall’s owners the Wilmorite Management Group, was recently awarded a 25-year PILOT for their $11 million renovation plan for the BonTon wing.
“I don't think I should have to accept less than Greece Ridge Mall,” says Nolan. “The Wilmots, they were given a 25-year PILOT with a very low escalator with it.”
Irondequoit Town Supervisor Mary Joyce D'Aurizio says she wasn’t aware that Nolan would be asking for COMIDA tax breaks when Nolan first presented the I-Square project last year.
She says the board needs more proof that the I-Square project is a viable business plan.
“Yes. I do want to see the numbers if our taxpayers are supporting a commercial project then the numbers have to work,” D’Aurizio says. “I have to worry about 52,000 residents and how their pocketbooks are affected by these decisions.”
Nolan repeated several times during the meeting that the town and its residents are risking nothing when it comes to the project. He said all the risk fell on himself and that the town could only gain through sales tax revenue for the businesses at I-Square. As for the 25-year tax break, Nolan argued that it was money that Irondequoit never had to begin with.
“We've proven that we can do this,” Nolan says. “We live in Irondequoit. We are lifelong residents. I don't think [the board] should have concerns. This is a gift to the town. In addition to I-Square, we're building a $1.6 million road and giving it to them. Please don't put restrictions on me to give you road like that. That's not fair.”
D’Aurizio says the issue is more complicated than that. She says Nolan has yet to provide a list of possible tenants or plans regarding infrastructure like draining.
“The business plan has to tell us, more specifically, how each building is going to be profitable, because if it isn't profitable, the businesses won't survive.”
At moments Tuesday night’s meeting was very tense. Supervisor D’Aurizio told Nolan “We need more specifics about how you are going to make money.” Nolan responded, “Why do you care about what happens to my money?”
Nolan told the board that if they do not approve his COMIDA application for the 25-year PILOT, he may have to operate some of his buildings as a non-profit. He says then the town would not be able to reap any of the tax benefits from those buildings.
The town board has planned a special board meeting for Wednesday, September 26 to work out more of the details. The board may vote at this time whether or not to approve the COMIDA application. Nolan says this is the last chance to get it approved if they want to start construction this fall.