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Potsdam Village Board supports Affinity PILOT

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POTSDAM — A proposed $20 million housing project got a boost Monday when the Potsdam village board voted to provide a tax break to developers Chason Affinity.

The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement, or PILOT, between Affinity and the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency must also be approved by the town of Potsdam, the Potsdam school board, and St. Lawrence county in order to take effect.

Affinity plans to build 100 apartments, directed mostly toward students, on vacant property near 206 Main St.

Several people, including landlords and Potsdam town board members, spoke to the village board at Monday’s meeting to express their concerns.

Village resident Rose Rivezzi recently bought a house that she plans to rent. Landlords in charge of smaller properties receive no incentives for the improvements they make, she said.

“If we were to rent it we wouldn’t see any of the PILOT benefits that a huge corporation could take advantage of,” Ms. Rivezzi said.

The town board decided last week to table its own vote on the agreement. Several members attended Monday’s village board meeting to voice their problems with the PILOT.

“By giving a PILOT are we setting a precedent?” asked town Supervisor Marie C. Regan.

Several town officials shared their belief that Affinity would still build apartments even without the tax breaks. Members of the school board, meeting last week, had also greeted the tax deal with skepticism.

If the PILOT is approved, Affinity will pay 65 percent of the assessed tax rate for the development for five years after finishing a unit on the property.

While the rate paid for the land may vary based on the annual assessment, the rate paid for the buildings themselves will be fixed until the end of the agreement. After the five years are up, the rate will increase by 5 percentage points per year.

At the start of the 12th year, the company will revert to paying full tax rates.

Despite some worries, the village board agreed the PILOT was necessary. Even with the tax breaks, the village would receive $650,000 in revenue from Affinity over the course of the agreement.

“That’s a lot of money to risk having go away,” said Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis.

Trustee Eleanor F. Hopke agreed.

“I think PILOTs stink,” she said, “but I think we need to do it.”

The town board is expected to vote on the agreement on June 25, and the school board will follow with a vote on June 26.

The IDA will hold a public hearing on the PILOT at 1 p.m. July 5 in the Potsdam Civic Center.

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