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Sweden Town Board members on Clinton Street tax abatement
Describing himself as an “eternal optimist,” Sweden resident Gary Skoog says that the discussion over tax relief for the rehabilitation of 60 Clinton Street in the Village of Brockport is not over.
“This does not end the issue,” Skoog told the Suburban News and Hamlin-Clarkson Herald following the regular meeting of the Sweden Town Board February 25 at which board members refused to make a motion to vote on a resolution regarding tax breaks for the historic 60 Clinton Street property in the village.
Many residents were stunned that the resolution – although on the agenda – did not come to a vote, but Skoog noted, “there is still opportunity for conversation. We will continue to push this project, it is so terribly important to the village and the community at large.”
Well-known Brooklyn developer Greg O’Connell wants to rehabilitate the historic former farm implement factory which sits along the Erie Canal just west of Main Street in the village. He has stated that tax breaks are the key to rehabilitation projects for developers. O’Connell and the Greater Brockport Development Corporation have asked that the 60 Clinton Street project be granted 421-m exemption status. The 421-m exemption provides tax breaks specifically to help rehab historic properties as well as distressed areas suffering from blight and decay.
Last summer, the 421-m law was enacted by the Brockport Village Board and the Brockport School Board of Education passed it in January, but the Sweden Town Board has held-off, expressing concerns, particularly over the life span of the abatement, which can exceed 20 years.
Sweden Supervisor Rob Carges again opened the floor to an even larger crowd of residents than attended the February 11 Town Board meeting, allowing them to comment again on the abatement.
He called the project a “capital infusion opportunity” for new money to come into the town and village. “We should embrace this,” Skoog told town board members.
Richard Fenton, a former Sweden Town Board member, empathized with current council members saying, “I know how difficult this process is.” But he said the minute the abatement begins, the town starts getting taxes on the current $60,000 assessment.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the town and village to work together,” Fenton said. “I urge you to take this opportunity to do what’s best for the community.”
Resident Robert Westbrook said the arguments of those in favor of the abatement were very persuasive and stated that the million-dollar-plus investment O’Connell would make in the community more than merited the length of the 421-m abatement plan.
He called O’Connell a “communitarian investor” whose priority is the stability of the communities in which he invests.
Two residents expressed concerns about the abatement and whether or not the project would generate revenue. Rhett King said the abatement would make it difficult for existing businesses to compete. “The playing field needs to remain level,” he said.
Following the public comment portion of the meeting, board members discussed the issue when they reached the resolution on the agenda.
Council member Robert Muesebeck questioned why O’Connell didn’t request the 485-b abatement.
Muesebeck said the 20-year length of the 421-m exemption was too long, “I would have no problem approving the 485,” he said.
Council member Donald Roberts said he echoed Muesebeck’s concerns.
“The 485 (exemption) is an easier pill to swallow,” he said, and questioned if the, “entire tax paying population (of Sweden) wants to carry this load for 20 years.”
Supervisor Carges said he had been torn over the issue for seven months. “The 421-m does bother me,” he said, noting the Sweden/Brockport community would be the first in the state to grant 421-m exemption status. “The 20 years is holding the board back, the 485 might be more palatable.”
Following their discussion, Supervisor Carges called for a motion to be made to bring the resolution regarding 60 Clinton Street and the 421-m abatement forward, however, no council member made that motion, meaning the town board will not vote on the resolution.
The resolution required information such as engineering and architectural plans, designs, maps, environmental paperwork, etc. to be submitted to the town within 60 days of approval of the resolution in order for the town to schedule a public hearing on the local law which would be needed to allow the town to grant the 421-m exemption.
Following the meeting, Brockport Mayor Margay Blackman told this newspaper reporter she was uncertain how the village might be able to proceed regarding tax breaks for the property.
“I’m amazed,” she said at the inaction of the Sweden Town Board.
Bill Andrews, Brockport Village Trustee and Deputy Mayor, said following the meeting the Town Board has lost a superb opportunity to promote a very substantial improvement in the community at a minimal cost.
Andrews is also a member of the GBDC board and has worked extensively in the effort to remediate the property to prepare it for development/rehabilitation. Andrews has been meeting with the Sweden Town Board since last summer to discuss O’Connell’s interest in 60 Clinton Street and the 421-m exemption.
“With a million dollar assessment, the Town would have exempted only $38,080 in potential tax revenue over a twenty year period, that is less than $1,500 a year,” Andrews tells the Suburban News and Hamlin-Clarkson Herald. “Furthermore, we on the Village Board feel that the town has slapped us in the face by refusing to collaborate on a project that is of the utmost importance to the entire community. I will continue to work for better relations between the boards, but this makes it a lot harder.”
60 Clinton Street target of “heart bombing” – On Sunday, February 23, some 40 to 50 proponents of renovating the canalside landmark building at 60 Clinton Street in Brockport met to show their “love.” Members of the Pro-Brockport, Greater Brockport Development Corporation and Walk! Bike! Brockport organizations were present, along with supportive residents from Brockport and Sweden.They adorned the south side of the 164 year old building with hearts and other signs of affection and endured a windy 40 degree day to show their determination to have this building renovated and the area enhanced.
Photographs by Walter Horylev