Assemblyman Sean Ryan is urging state officials to launch an investigation into whether tax breaks that the Genesee County Economic Development Center approved this month for a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Batavia violate new statewide restrictions on incentives for retail projects.
The development agency approved nearly $1.8 million in tax breaks for Dick’s to move into a building in the Towne Centre Mall that was left vacant two years ago by the closing of a Lowe’s Home Improvement store.
The development agency unanimously approved the tax breaks under an exemption in the law that allows incentives for retail projects that provide unique goods or services that are not otherwise available.
But Ryan, D-Buffalo, said there already are at least four other sporting goods stores in Batavia, including one other national chain, Olympia Sports.
“The Genesee County IDA is trying to pull the wool over our eyes,” Ryan said. “It is utterly ridiculous to think that a strip mall offers unique goods and services.”
Steven Hyde, the Genesee County development agency’s president, said the center’s board backed the project because it will offer shoppers in the Batavia area a “depth and breadth” of shopping options like those in Buffalo and Rochester.
The $18 million project’s developer, COR Development, also is negotiating with two other upscale department store chains that could fill the remaining space in the Lowe’s building as well as a new 36,000-square-foot building that could be constructed in the complex, Hyde said. The Dick’s store would take up about 30 percent of the space.
“We’re a small market. It’s hard to get regional and national retailers into a place like Batavia,” Hyde said. “We don’t chase retail,” Hyde said.
If the other unidentified retailers eventually join Dick’s in the strip mall, the project could generate an additional $2 million a year in sales tax revenues and would generate additional wealth in Genesee County because local shoppers would have less of a reason to drive to Buffalo or Rochester to do their shopping, he said.
“They won’t have to commute 45 minutes to Buffalo or Rochester. They can go buy it in their own community,” Hyde said.