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Potsdam housing development plans may proceed without PILOT

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POTSDAM - A Buffalo development firm is apparently still pursuing a housing project on the village’s outskirts despite failing to receive a payment in lieu of taxes agreement.

Chason Affinity sought a PILOT as part of its plan to build 100 apartments geared toward students on vacant property near 206 Main St. The tax deal needed approval from both the town and village of Potsdam, as well as the Potsdam Central School board and St. Lawrence County.

Under the agreement, Affinity would have paid taxes on 65 percent of its assessment for the first five years; thereafter the assessment would go up by 5 percentage points a year until the developer started paying full taxes in the 12th year.

The PILOT gained the village board’s approval but failed with the town council, which rejected it, and the school board, which opted not to vote following the town’s rejection.

Affinity had said it will not build in the area without the PILOT, Thomas A. Plastino, deputy director of the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency, previously said.

But at Thursday night’s planning board meeting, Affinity-retained engineer Aaron Jarvis submitted blueprints for a 14-acre subdivision within the 100-acre property the development firm apparently owns. The 14 acres is the portion of the property Affinity was planning to develop. Planning and Development Director Frederick J. Hanss said subdividing makes a mortgage on the development more affordable.

Affinity executives were absent from Thursday’s meeting. Mr. Jarvis declined comment on how the subdivision relates to the future of the project because he was only retained for engineering.

“I was just asked to do a subdivision,” he said. “You’d have to ask them. I really don’t have an answer.”

But others in attendance figured the project was still alive if Chason was applying for a subdivision application.

“If they’re subdividing it, they’re obviously pursuing it at some level,” board member Theodore Prahl said afterward. “Why else would they bother subdividing it?”

Mr. Hanss echoed a similar sentiment. A developer who is cancelling a project would not still be submitting plans at village meetings, he said.

“Why would you go through the trouble of doing it otherwise?” he asked.

Thursday’s meeting was a preliminary hearing; the board will vote on the subdivision application at a later date. Affinity still needs to show the village it owns the property, Mr. Hanss said.

“As of yet, they have yet to do that,” he said.

But Mr. Jarvis said he understood Affinity owned the property as of July 26.

“It’s my understanding the property transfer has taken effect,” Mr. Jarvis said.

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