Eli Ruiz | Democrat
While Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) CEO Allan Scott listens in the background, Todd Diorio, President of the Hudson Valley Building Trades and Construction Council, thanked the operators of the Concord project, who reached a labor agreement with his union.
Public weighs in on IDA policy
By Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO March 15, 2013 The Town of Thompson hosted a standing-room-only public hearing on Tuesday to hear comments on more than $200 million in tax abatements requested of the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) by the developers of the $1.2 billion Concord project slated to break ground this spring.
The IDA held three simultaneous hearings on separate applications from Empire Resorts, Monticello Raceway Management Inc. (MRMI) and EPR Properties a real estate investment trust, and the owners of the 1,735-acre parcel set for development.
Dozens of supporters packed the Thompson Town Hall and urged the IDA to move swiftly with the proposed tax abatements, while a few counseled a closer look at the proposal, even suggesting that the developers will have no problem moving forward without the requested abatements.
The Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council, in September of last year, named the EPT Concord Resort as one of the region’s “priority projects.” The agency also noted that the proposed Concord project could have a “transformational impact on the region.”
Several local residents, business owners and members of the Hudson Valley Building Trades and Construction Council (HVBTCC) with whom Empire Resorts has recently signed a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) spoke in favor of the tax breaks and the more than 1,000 permanent, and 1,200 union construction jobs, that the operators are estimating the project will bring to the area. More than 25 letters were submitted in support of the tax breaks. Also present for the hearing were IDA Chairman and County Legislator Ira Steingart, and IDA CEO Allan Scott.
Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson praised the scope of the proposed buildout at the former Concord site, and offered, “Today I’d like to speak to you all as a business owner in Sullivan County and as the former chairman of the [Sullivan County] Chamber of Commerce. I was chairman of the Chamber for six years from 1998 to 2004… if we at that time sat down and wanted to build a dream for Sullivan County, I don’t think that we could have been smart enough to come up with a plan such as has been presented here today. This project has so much potential for this community, for all of the people of the community and everybody here… I support this 1,000 percent.”
Empire Resort CEO Joe D’Amato spoke as well, and after referencing the recent pact with the HVBTCC, said, “This plus our neutrality agreement with the hotel and motel trades reinforces something that our chairman spoke about a year ago; that we would be union built and staffed and we’re fulfilling that commitment and intend to live up to that.”
Although the vast majority of those in attendance for Tuesday’s meeting supported the proposed tax abatements, folks like Dave Colavito of Rock Hill aren’t so sure the tax breaks are necessary for the operators to carry on with the project. Colavito focused his remarks on the project’s job-creation figures, as well as the tax abatement considerations.
“Given a revenue stream of about $200 million, I find it difficult to see why the applicant can’t pay the mortgage tax, the sales tax and the annual property tax,” Colavito told the Democrat.
According to the proposed deal, the sales and mortgage tax waivers will be implemented at the project’s start, but the vast majority of the property tax abatements will be spread over a 16-year period.
Asked if the project would in fact move forward if the tax abatements are not approved by the Sullivan County IDA as suggested by Colavito and others Tuesday Empire Resorts Executive Vice President Charles Degliomini said to the Democrat, “These [the tax abatements] have been factored into our calculations and are absolutely necessary to move forward with this project.”