By Rebecca Martin
Community members who have been following the Kingstonian project’s payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) request have asked for more detailed financial information to understand the potential impacts (including developer’s “trade secrets” which are fair game for a public/private partnership). Others are up in arms that a wealthy developer who wants to create high-end housing and a luxury boutique hotel in Uptown Kingston would have the audacity to request a 25-year, 100% tax exempt PILOT agreement worth $30.6 million dollars. Nearly seven months after the SEQR process concluded (where the full value of public subsidies were not and should have been revealed), the developers publically revealed their PILOT request to the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) threatening the board that without their approval of the PILOT, they would not secure the financing that they need and that the City of Kingston was at risk for the project (and the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grant) to go away.
According to Rose Woodworth, the CEO of the UCIDA, the ground rules for a deviated PILOT (meaning that it’s not a standard PILOT under the unified tax exemption policy) include the consent of the involved local jurisdictions and in this case, the Kingston Common Council, Ulster County Legislature, and the Kingston City School District’s Board of Education. She also noted that the UCIDA “…could, if it so determined, to move forward without the consents of the local jurisdictions.” The process that Woodworth nonchalantly describes reminds us of the worst part of top down culture. It is not meant to be fair or inclusive, but only to provide the illusion of participation. Those “in charge” may override a decision if it runs counter to their desired and in many cases predetermined outcome.
There are still steps remaining in the process for the Kingstonian PILOT, one of which is an independent, third party cost benefit analysis of the Kingstonians’ financials requested and paid for by Ulster County. The National Development Council (NDC) was hired only last week as an unbiased third party. The report, that the City of Kingston should have requested last year, should be available any day now. If released to the public (and it should as a taxpayer funded study for a public/private partnership) we will be able to learn its legitimacy based on the materials the NDC has solicited from the developer.
Earlier in October, when Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan announced plans for this study, the Board of Education tabled its discussion on the Kingstonian PILOT until they could review the report. The Ulster County Legislature’s (UCL) Economic Development, Tourism, Housing, Planning & Transit Committee chaired by Legislator Brian Cahill on the other hand went on to pass the Kingstonian PILOT resolution to “…be fair to the developers.” The PILOT resolution appeared next at the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee chaired by Legislator Lynn Archer, where they wisely chose to table the discussion for the same reasons as the Board of Education.
The next bit may move very fast, with the Ways and Means committee meeting for a second time this month on Tuesday October 20 at 5:00pm. If the Kingstonian PILOT is on their agenda and it is passed out of committee, it goes to the Democratic caucus at 5:45pm and most likely to the floor for a full legislative vote at 7:00pm.
We’ve laid out a timeline of all of the events that have led us to this moment that you can review below. We conclude with “what’s next” for the remaining meetings regarding the Kingstonian PILOT in October.