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Developer of LeRay housing project makes case for PILOT

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WATERTOWN — The developer of a new housing complex told the LeRay Town Council on Thursday night that her project likely would continue even without a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal.

However, Linda W. Luther, principal for Fidelity Holdings Corp., said a three-year deal would be a “vote of confidence” in her company and its lenders as they anticipate spending about $55 million to $60 million building the 304-unit complex and creating 150 to 280 jobs.

“If we were not granted this PILOT, it would say to our funding sources, the community doesn’t support it,” she said. “If we were denied the PILOT, it would take the wind out of my sails, quite frankly.”

The general outline of the proposed deal for The Commons at Fleming’s Farm, near the corner of Kestrel Drive and Taylor Road, would be three-year agreements for each of its three phases.

In the first year, the developer would pay 25 percent of its property taxes, a total that would rise 50 percent and 75 percent for the final two years. The PILOT would start for each phase when the developer obtained a certificate of occupancy for at least 85 percent of the units. The terms are similar to those offered to the developers of the Eagle Ridge housing area for all five of its phases.

Ms. Luther estimated the cost of the PILOT to the town would be about $384,000, but, when complete, the project would generate several times that in tax revenue. The developer is studying the market near its new residences to help create new business opportunities near the development.

Though she acknowledged the community has expanded its housing options, a need for better quality housing for higher-ranking enlisted soldiers and officers at Fort Drum still remains, she said.

“We will bring competition. We will satisfy a market segment I don’t think you have in your 20-mile radius now,” Ms. Luther said.

Building the houses will take about two years if done modularly or three years if stick built.

Also planned for the development is a nature reserve, a biking and walking trail, fields and a community center.

In addition to the town, the developer will need to obtain approval for a PILOT from the Indian River Central School District and Jefferson County. The final PILOT agreement document is being drawn up with help from Jefferson County Local Development Corp. The group’s CEO, Donald C. Alexander, and Robert J. Reddick, of Gouverneur-based Con Tech Building Systems Inc., joined Ms. Luther for her presentation.

The project also is under review by the town’s Planning Board, along with the state Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation.

After the meeting, town Supervisor Ronald C. Taylor declined to give his opinion on whether the town would support the PILOT agreement, saying only that the council likely would vote on it in May.

The Town Council also approved the expansion of the Sewer District 4 project to include an additional 37 equivalent dwelling units, primarily near County Route 138. The expansion would add about $300,000 in costs to the approximately $4 million project. However, the addition of new users kept projections for first year EDU costs essentially flat.

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