Updated 07/09/2012 05:30 PM
Council approves tax deal
Over strong objections from some lawmakers, the Syracuse Common Council has said yes to a tax deal on a new project on the city's University Hill. YNN's Bill Carey said city councilors struggled over granting benefits to get the project done.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Timing can be everything. And the timing on this plan was miserable.
In the midst of a flap over Destiny USA cutting back on its plan, but holding on to a lucrative tax deal, the Cameron Group came to city leaders, asking for a 30 year payment in lieu of tax agreement, a PILOT, to build a combination bookstore and physical fitness center for Syracuse University. For some councilors, it was a no go.
“I can't vote for something like this. This is decidedly unfair and you know, unfortunately, this is not only going on here in Syracuse. This is going on across the country. The ‘connected’ get what they want,” Syracuse Common Councilor Patrick Hogan said.
The debates over tax agreements by the city have grown more intense in recent years as the cost of operations has grown, while the resources the city is able to draw on have declined.
Proponents of this deal said this deal was different. Non-taxable University land would at least pay some money to the city.
Syracuse Common Councilor Khalid Bey said, “At the end of the day, what we're ultimately talking about here is an effort to improve our tax base. We're talking about the creation of a potentially new, workable model for extracting taxes from otherwise untaxable property.”
Councilors also said they had sweetened the deal by insisting that the developer hire minority workers to aid in the new project.
“So this is an opportunity to give some of the folks in the inner city a chance to be able to go to these sites, work on these sites and be able to take care of their children,” said Syracuse Common Councilor Helen Hudson.
But the ghost of Destiny still haunted the discussions. The council majority leader noting that all of the top management for the developer had worked in the past for Robert Congel, the developer of Destiny.
“So we know where they learned their trade, where they go their values and their business ethics. At the feet of the master dreamer. The ‘pie in the sky man.’ The Wizard of the Emerald Hotel of Oz. What we have here today is the same product at the same price with the same buyer and the same seller. And I guess we loved it so much the first time, we're coming back for more,” said Syracuse Common Council Majority Leader Lance Denno.
The debate split the council. In the end, the deal passed by just a five to four vote.
Under the new agreement, the Cameron Group, developer of the new bookstore-physical fitness center, will pay the city $64,000 the first year, with the payment rising in each of the next 30 years.