Dan Hust | Democrat
LABORERS LOCAL 17 members and Sullivan County residents Eric Milisaiskas, left, and Billy Muncy urged the IDA to give the tax breaks to the project.
Concord tax breaks urged; IDA agrees
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO It was one of the most packed Industrial Development Agency (IDA) hearings anyone could recall.
Clocking in at nearly three hours with 53 speakers, it was also one of the longest.
And thanks in large part to the e-mail lobbying efforts of the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce and Partnership for Economic Development, it featured near-universal support for the subject of the public hearing.
That subject was tax abatements for the Concord Hotel’s redevelopment, a $1.5 billion project about to break ground at the now-demolished hotel site in Kiamesha Lake.
Seems the speakers got their message across, too, as the IDA board voted 6-0 yesterday to approve the incentives package. Ed Sykes of Callicoon abstained,, citing business dealings with developer Louis Cappelli.
That includes $71.5 million in sales tax, mortgage tax and property tax abatements on the 750-room hotel/convention center/ racino and $13 million in similar abatements on the Ritz-Carlton spa and golf course project.
(Figures have been revised by IDA consultant Shepstone Management Company since last week’s draft cost/benefit analysis.)
However, IDA CEO Allan Scott told the Thompson Town Hall audience that “the Cappelli group will continue to pay as they have for years taxes based on [the Concord’s $23 million] total assessed value.”
In other words, these abatements apply only to new construction, not existing property and buildings.
“There is no net tax loss at all,” Scott concluded.
In fact, the IDA’s analysis of the project indicates direct benefits like 2,000 hotel jobs and 3,000 construction jobs, plus indirect benefits like increased sales and property taxes for surrounding businesses and governments, will total nearly $1.5 billion.
Subtracting the abatements and the costs of extra municipal and school services, Shepstone estimates more than $447 million will come Sullivan County’s way between 2010 and 2050, thanks to the Concord redevelopment.
Such figures have generated a benefits-to-cost ratio of 11.93 for the hotel project and 10.63 for the spa project. In other words, the study indicates that for every dollar spent on the Concord, between $10.63 and $11.93 will return to the community.
With Ritz-Carlton and Jack Nicklaus already involved in the spa and golf course and Great Wolf Lodge and Donald Trump being approached for the hotel side, the massive scale of the proposal is drawing attention far and wide and has already secured plush financial deals from the state.
Nevertheless, Cappelli Enterprises Executive Vice President Joe Apicella attended Tuesday’s hearing personally to push for the abatements.
“As you can see, this is going to be a tremendous facility,” he explained, pointing out amenities like a 500-seat IMAX theatre, a 1,000-seat auditorium and a 7,500-seat sports arena. “... The IDA package is a critical component to making this happen it cannot happen without it.
“... This is going to be an extraordinary boom to this area,” Apicella added. “You compare the benefits to the cost, and it is, as we say, a no-brainer.”
“It’s a no, no, no-brainer,” agreed Villa Roma owner Marty Passante, echoing dozens of other speakers. “... It’s a project that has to go through.”
The leaders of Crystal Run Healthcare, Stewart Airport, Orange Regional Medical Center, Catskill Regional Medical Center, Pattern for Progress, Sullivan County Community College, Monticello Central School, Town of Thompson, area unions and a slew of private businesses joined in the chorus of support.
“This project ... is fantastic,” remarked Lew Klugman of Klugman Associates, a Ferndale-based insurance and financial planning firm. “There is no more Golden Age. There is no silver lining. What we have here now is platinum.”
There were only three voices of caution and none advocated against the project itself.
“The importance of this project cannot be overstated,” remarked Rock Hill resident Dave Colavito. “... [But] it’s important to be discerning.”
He urged the IDA to follow the state’s lead in making these financial incentives performance-based.
“We want to be careful we don’t give away the store,” he said, pointing out that neighboring states with existing hotels and Vegas-style slots will likely provide stiff competition for tourists.
Callicoon Center resident Dick Riseling didn’t care for the idea of abatements considering them of more tangible benefit to Cappelli than the public and also pushed for more stringent “green” standards than the LEED certification planned for every Concord building.
And Thompson Deputy Supervisor Bill Rieber argued that the abatements should contain provisions to remove certain tax breaks if the Concord ever becomes a Class A (Vegas-style) casino.