The Lancaster Industrial Development Agency on Tuesday approved $484,000 in tax breaks for a $12.6 million senior housing complex, the latest in a growing number of senior-housing projects requesting – and receiving – incentives.
The Lancaster IDA board rejected the developer’s request for property tax breaks, but other local IDAs have or soon will approve similar incentive packages that include payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreements.
Beside Lancaster, the Erie County IDA and the Hamburg IDA have approved tax breaks for senior housing, and the Amherst IDA is set to vote next week on a similar request.
“We felt the benefit to the town and the benefit to the community would justify a sales tax and mortgage-recording tax [break],” said Lancaster Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli, chairman of the town IDA.
The developers and IDA members say the projects fill a need for senior housing, spur construction activity and generate tax revenue and jobs.
But critics say the developers are pitting one community against another in an effort to extract the biggest possible subsidy, and they contend these housing developments don’t stimulate the economy.
“In my opinion, this is corporate welfare, and the town should play no part in it,” Lancaster resident Lee Chowaniec said at Tuesday’s hearing.
The Lancaster IDA voted Tuesday to approve $472,500 in sales tax exemptions and $11,400 in exemptions for the mortgage-recording tax for the project by Regent Cos. to build a 112-unit complex at 4845 Transit Road for seniors who want to live independently.
The development is the third phase of Regent’s Park Lane Apartments, though the apartments in the first two phases aren’t age-restricted, and the newest phase will create three full-time jobs, IDA records show.
Two residents questioned Regent’s application at Tuesday’s IDA meeting, with Chowaniec asking Regent’s David A. Huck whether he would build the development without the requested tax breaks.
“I can’t answer that,” Huck replied.
Huck said a market study showed demand for senior housing in the area, but Regent needs the IDA incentives to make the project work financially because other senior-housing developments have received subsidies.
Fudoli said the developer will pay considerable property taxes and a $140,000 town parks and recreation fee. The IDA board approved the tax breaks by a 6-1 vote, with Depew Mayor Steven P. Hoffman voting no.
IDA regulations allow for subsidies for senior-citizen housing, and various local IDAs have approved tax breaks for these developments.
The Hamburg IDA, for example, last month issued a seven-year PILOT worth an estimated $1 million for a $10 million, 96-unit senior housing complex at 4543 Camp Road in the town, according to Michael J. Bartlett, the IDA’s executive director.
Developer David Manko will pay an estimated $300,000 in property taxes over the course of the PILOT, an amount higher than the level of property taxes the property would have generated if it remained vacant land, Bartlett told The News.
The first phase in Manko’s Villages of Mission Hills senior housing complex – an $11 million, 112-unit development – in 2010 received a 10-year PILOT, which is estimated to save $1.3 million over the life of the agreement while Manko pays $1 million in property taxes.
Both phases also received mortgage-recording and sales tax breaks and fill a need for this housing in the town, Bartlett said. “It allows people who have lived in Hamburg, and who want to stay in the community, to have that option,” he said.
Andrew J. Rudnick, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and chairman of the county IDA’s policy committee, said IDAs shouldn’t grant tax breaks for market-rate senior housing unless there is a “measurable” public benefit as an extenuating circumstance.
“We’re skeptical about any residential projects, including senior housing,” Rudnick said.
But requests keep coming. The Amherst IDA next week will hold a public hearing on an application from developers Paul Bliss and Michael Connors for incentives for a $8.9 million, 99-unit senior-housing project at Maple and Ayer roads.
The Amherst IDA could approve $1.3 million in tax breaks for the project, including an estimated $920,700 over the seven-year PILOT given to other senior housing projects in Amherst, said David Mingoia, the IDA’s deputy director.
The project would pay an estimated $538,296 in property taxes over the seven years – far more than the $54,950 the land would generate if it remained vacant, Mingoia added.
And another developer, Calamar, has applied to the Lancaster IDA for a PILOT and breaks on the mortgage-recording and sales taxes for a $13.6 million, 120-unit senior-housing complex, built on eight acres at Juniper Boulevard and Walden Avenue, once Juniper is extended to Walden, IDA records show.
Also Tuesday, the Lancaster IDA approved:
• $52,500 in sales tax exemptions for $800,000 in building renovations and new equipment for the Garden Place Hotel at 6615 Transit Road.
• $89,688 in sales tax exemptions for $1.1 million in renovations and equipment at PCB Piezontronics, a manufacturer of sensors and sensor accessories that employs 671 at its facility at 3425 Walden.