IDA Planning Vote on Abatement on Wednesday, Before Seating New Members

Categories Columns, Housing & Development, Ithaca, Politics

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By Amanda Kirchgesser

On Wednesday, January 10 at 9 a.m., the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) plans to railroad through some unfinished business. Meeting outside their normal meeting time, the IDA is planning to finalize approval of an approximately $800,000 abatement on an approximately $4.6 million luxury housing project. This action is highly suspicious as the County Legislature has yet to make committee appointments for the upcoming legislative session. If this project were truly on the up and up, it could wait a month for these appointments to be finalized and for all IDA members to be brought up to speed on this proposal.

The 323T project will provide the city of Ithaca 16 luxury apartments in the heart of Inlet Island. Located between The Dock and Kelly’s Dockside, eight townhouses with rents between $3,400-$3,500/month will sit atop eight studio apartments renting for $1,400-$1,500/month.

I braved subzero temperatures on Friday, January 5, at 5 p.m. to make a public comment on the proposed abatement for the 323T project. Due to the extreme cold, I called ahead to verify it was still taking place. The Town of Ithaca offices where the hearing was to be held had no idea. They gave me the number for Ina Arthur, at the IDA, and someone in her office confirmed it was still happening.

Two people made it out for comment, myself included. Rich John represented the IDA, Heather McDaniel represented TCAD, and Steve Flash, the developer of 323T, were also in attendance. These public hearings are so poorly advertised they frequently have zero turnout unless there is massive community organizing around the proposed projects.

Amanda Kirchgessner speaks at an Industrial Development Agency meeting, June 8, 2017. Photo: Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers

In the developers’ application, they list poor soil conditions as part of their need for this abatement. They also plan to purchase electricity from a solar farm and are seeking a 10 year enhanced property tax abatement for doing the right thing. This means the first three years will produce net zero in property tax revenue as the developer has shown Tompkins County Area Development they will profit less than 20 percent off their investment.Ramming through tax breaks for wealthy developers before properly seating and educating the incoming IDA is unacceptable.

Tax abatements are our community’s leverage to garner public benefit out of an otherwise privatized profit. Please share this widely and stand with me against this welfare for the wealthy.

If you can’t make the meeting, please contact Martha Robertson as she chairs the County Legislature and is acting chair of the IDA until it is properly seated:mrobertson@tompkins-co.org

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Featured photo: An IDA meeting in June 2017. Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers

Disclosure: Kirchgesser is a financial supporter of TruthSayers. There is no requirement to be a financial supporter of TruthSayers to share your views here, but your money does help keep this online space open for comment.

Josh Brokaw is an independent reporter based in Ithaca, N.Y.
Email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org with tips, story suggestions, and gentle criticism.
Twitter: @jdbrokaw

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