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California developer’s PILOT request shaved from 10 to 3 years

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Municipal officials decided to reduce a California housing developer’s request for a 10-year tax break to three years, after meeting last month to discuss its project planned off Route 11 near Fort Drum in the town of LeRay.

In response to that news, Fidelity American Holdings Corp. is expected to scrap its 10-year proposal and pursue a three-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement, said Donald C. Alexander, CEO of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency. The agency will facilitate the PILOT on behalf of Fidelity, which has planned 213 multifamily townhouse rental units for the Common at Fleming’s Farm. Taxing jurisdictions affected by the project are the town of LeRay, Indian River Central School District and Jefferson County.

“The taxing jurisdictions felt that a 10-year agreement was not feasible, but that they would consider three years,” Mr. Alexander said. “I have talked to the developer and am optimistic it will consider a three-year agreement.”

The region’s goal to fill a shortage of 1,035 market-rate rental units was met this spring, thanks to projects approved in the past two years. But housing experts from Fort Drum say there is still a need for upscale military housing that Fidelity’s townhouse community would meet, Mr. Alexander said. Though the JCIDA previously vowed to stop issuing tax breaks for housing projects, he said he believes the project qualifies as an exception.

“This particular segment of the housing market is not being filled,” he said. “It’s higher-end housing with more amenities that other apartments don’t have. This would be for higher grade military professionals, individuals assigned here that will only be here for about three years. Rather than invest in a home, many of them would like to lease.”

Townhouses will be two to four units each and feature three different styles.

Linda W. Luther, principal for Fidelity, did not respond to a call Tuesday seeking comment.

Fidelity has yet to receive approval from the LeRay Planning Board, which has requested revisions to the developer’s site plan. The developer owns 347 acres on the north side of Taylor Road, a mile-long connector under construction that is expected to be open to traffic this fall. It will link Johnson Road at the Walmart intersection to Kestrel Drive, which will extend north from Eagle Ridge Village.

Historically, the town of LeRay has not approved a PILOT agreement longer than three years, said Mark A. Capone, administrative clerk to the supervisor.

“We didn’t want them asking for a 10-year PILOT when we know it’s not going to fly here,” he said. “But at this point there’s nothing against the project, as long as they keep presenting evidence the community needs it.”

If the project is approved by LeRay this fall, construction could start in the spring.

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