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EDA believes Troutburg project will benefit local businesses

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 February 2014 at 12:00 am

ALBION – Last year, 23 new houses were built in Orleans County. That’s not too many for an entire county, noted Ken DeRoller, a county legislator and member of the Orleans Economic Development Agency board of directors.

DeRoller, a former Kendall town assessor, said Kendall typically sees one new house go up a year. That pace of development makes it difficult to grow the tax base for the community.

The Cottages at Troutburg, a seasonal resort community in Kendall by Lake Ontario, has the chance to attract 400 new homes to Kendall. The developers of the project, The Wegman Group, believe the site could be full in a decade with houses ranging from $50,000 to $100,000.

“We have to take advantage of one of our best assets here and that’s the lake,” DeRoller said. “The resource of the lake is our main attraction.”

The Wegman Group acquired former Salvation Army Camp by Lake Ontario for $1.5 million. The site had been tax exempt for about a half century. The company has stated the 126-acre site is one of the finest sites along the south shore of the lake.

The Wegman Group expects to spend $2.5 million for a sewer system, new roads and other amenities to make the project attractive to cottage owners.

The company requested a tax incentive plan over 10 years, which would save The Wegman Group $227,000 and also commit it to $186,000 in taxes. The proposal was opposed by town officials and many residents during two public hearings in the past month.

But today the EDA board unanimously approved it. DeRoller sees the project as a big benefit for the community, providing more tax base, more sales tax for the county and more customers for local businesses.

The tax incentives are for the property at a $1.3 million assessment, its current state. As cottages are completed, a sewer system installed and other improvements made, they will be put on the tax roll at 100 percent valuation without any tax breaks.

EDA officials estimate the project, when fully built with 400 cottages, could boost the community’s tax base by $30 million or more. That would help knock down the tax rates for town, county and school district taxpayers.

During public hearings about the proposal in the past month, residents and town officials said they feared the cottages may not get built, resulting in a tax giveaway for a doomed development.

As part of the 10-year tax abatement plan, the EDA added a stipulation that The Wegman Group needs to add at least $500,000 in assessment at the site annually over 10 years or else the tax plan could be voided, with the entire property reverting to full assessed value.

“There were some concerns if it failed or stalled,” DeRoller said. “This gives us an opportunity to cancel the incentives.”

Kendall Town Supervisor Tony Cammarata asked during the public hearings that no incentives be given to a residential project. Cammarata attended the EDA meeting today and said he was disappointed by the vote.

Al Lofthouse, a Kendall resident and Conservative Party chairman, said he didn’t think it was fair to other residents – “stressed taxpayers” – who don’t get tax discounts.

The EDA classified the project as a commercial endeavor. DeRoller believes it has the potential to benefit many other merchants in the area, including farm markets, fishing charters, wineries and restaurants.