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Horbacz clarifies position on tax abatement packages

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Watertown City Council candidate Cody J. Horbacz has clarified his position on tax abatement packages for developers.

Following a recent WWNY-TV7 interview that made it sound like he opposed all such tax packages, Mr. Horbacz said he is against only a certain kind.

He said he opposes payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements for developers that build rental housing, specifically naming two new apartment complexes in the town of Watertown. PILOTs generally should not be used for projects like that, he said.

“I always thought they should be for industry and manufacturing and creating jobs,” he said.

Communities use tax packages to lure developers. They vary in the amount and length, depending on individual projects.

However, Mr. Horbacz said, he believes PILOT programs also should be awarded to projects involving rehabilitation of existing buildings and redevelopment sites.

He strongly supported a tax abatement package for the renovation of the Woolworth Building on Public Square, which will be turned into 50 apartments on the upper floors and commercial space on the ground floor.

And COR Development Co., Fayetteville, should get a tax package for the redevelopment of former Mercy Hospital, which will be transformed into 168 rental housing units and 42,000 square feet of commercial space off Stone Street, he said.

“It makes sense,” he said. “It’s for redoing existing buildings and projects like Mercy.”

COR already has completed the first phase of its 296-unit Beaver Meadow Apartments complex behind the Target shopping center on Route 3 in the town of Watertown. It also invested millions of dollars in Watertown, developing the Towne Center shopping complex, which includes Target and Kohl’s department stores.

Meanwhile, the first phase of a 394-unit complex has been finished by Morgan Management, Pittsford, off County Route 202 in the town of Watertown.

Mr. Horbacz is running against incumbents Jeffrey M. Smith and Teresa R. Macaluso and political newcomer Stephen A. Jennings in Tuesday’s election. Voters can vote for two candidates.

Mr. Smith, Ms. Macaluso and Mr. Jennings all said they generally support PILOTs, but they look at them on case-by-case basis.

“It’s a carrot you can offer,” Mr. Jennings said.

Mr. Smith said he opposed a tax break for the Creek Wood Apartments off Mill Street, but voted for the package that the developers of the Woolworth Building received.

Ms. Macaluso voted for the Creek Wood tax deal because the land was annexed into the city for the project and the city had never received any property taxes from it previously, she said.

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