June 12, 2020
New York

Cattaraugus IDA OKs tax breaks for projects worth almost $12M

By Rick Miller, County Reporter | The Salamanca Press | June 11, 2020 | www.salamancapress.com

ELLICOTTVILLE – The Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency has approved tax breaks for $2.8 million in upgrades at Holiday Valley and $9 million for a solar farm in Allegany.

Three proposed solar farms in Portville, valued at more than $25 million, were tabled until July’s IDA meeting to allow Dimension Energy of Atlanta time to work out concerns with residents in the area of the solar farms on East Windfall Parkway and two on Haskell Parkway.

Corey Wiktor, IDA executive director, said the IDA will not approve solar projects that are not approved by municipal governments.

A vote on tax breaks on the proposed $11.7 million renovation of the former Manufacturers Hanover bank building in Olean was also postponed until next month, after the Olean Planning Board has given final approval to the long awaited project at State and Union streets.

The Holiday Valley project by owners Win-Sum Ski Corp. includes purchase of a new groomer, a Snow Cat, information technology upgrades, Sky High Course upgrades and repairs, improvements to The Lodge, updates at The Inn, upgrades at Tannenbaum and Yodeler lodges, snowmaking improvements, terrain park upgrades, phone system replacement, slope lighting, drainage and creek stabilization.

The IDA approval of Allegany CSG LLC, a 3-megawatt solar farm by developer Dimension Energy on a 33-acre site off Seventh Street in Allegany, south of Duggan & Duggan Contractors, came after the Town of Allegany gave its OK for the project.

The IDA recently approved a $6,000 per megawatt payment in lieu of taxes (P.I.L.O.T.) for solar projects, meaning the Town of Allegany, Allegany-Limestone School District and Cattaraugus County will share in about $18,000 in annual payments from the project. There is a 3% escalation clause included in the P.I.L.O.T.

The proposed Portville Dimension Energy projects are:

• A 4.5-megawatt solar installation on a 118-acre site on Windfall Road, $8 million.

• A 4.5-megawatt solar installation on a 67-acre site off Haskell Road and Haskell Parkway, $8.7 million.

• A 4.5-megawatt solar installation on a 67-acre site off Haskell Road and Haskell Parkway, $8.2 million.

Wiktor said the Portville Town Board has not sent a letter of support for the projects over concerns some neighbors of the solar farms have expressed.

Wiktor said he is also working on a document to clearly spell out IDA expectations for tax breaks for the solar farms, which create few full-time jobs.

Along with the tax breaks for these projects, the IDA is looking for companies – to the extent practicable – to use local labor and suppliers during construction. Items like local purchase of gravel, seeding, mowing and maintenance, Wiktor said.

“They are getting tax benefits off the backs of taxpayers,” Wiktor said. “We should maximize our return.”

Instead of just encouraging companies to use local labor and suppliers, the IDA will consider a “clawback” provision to force the companies to return tax breaks if they do not comply.

The IDA also encourages the company to negotiate a community host agreement for additional revenue to the town above its share of the P.I.L.O.T.

Wiktor said Portville Supervisor Tim Emley wants Dimension to work out any concerns with the neighbors of the three projects before the town signs off on the project. It’s not clear whether they are also discussing a community host agreement with the company.

Any solar project over 10 acres needs a State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), Wiktor said.

The IDA tabled a proposed Disaster Emergency Loan program to help businesses reopen in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic because members didn’t think the $100,000 Wiktor suggested would be enough. Nor did they want the IDA to have to administer a loan program.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to approve a bill approved in the Assembly and Senate to allow IDAs to make interest-free emergency loans, Wiktor said. A regional utility had been looking at offering such loans through the IDA, he explained.

The IDA will direct businesses who inquire about funds to reopen their businesses under state COVID-19 guidelines to other loan and grant programs, including one from the county.

Wiktor noted the $455 million Alle-Catt Wind Farm had been approved last week by the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment.

The proposed 117-turbine footprint would stretch across 30,000 acres in five towns in three counties. Industrial turbines in the towns of Freedom, Farmersville in Cattaraugus County; Rushford and Centerville in Allegany County and Arcade in Wyoming County would be up to 600 feet tall.

Wiktor said the Allegany County IDA and Wyoming County IDA are poised to approve the projects in their counties.

In Cattaraugus County, the Legislature is on record as asking the IDA not to grant tax breaks to large wind farms. The county Planning Board said the wind turbines were not in keeping with the rural character of the county and would affect tourism which thousands of county residents rely on.

The IDA generally does not approve projects that are opposed by residents and local governments, and shows no intent to do so with Alle-Catt.

However, Wiktor said the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) may be ready under Article 10 to force the IDA to grant tax breaks to help underwrite the wind farm.

“That is fundamentally wrong,” he insisted. NYSERDA would come up with the terms of the PILOT and force them on the IDA. “I have tremendous concern about this. If they want to pay full tax, that’s another issue.”

Article 10 also takes the decision making out of the hands of local governments, and interfering with Home Rule.

One IDA board member, Ginger Schroeder of Farmersville, an attorney who has helped lead the fight against Alle-Catt, said the state siting board’s decision was “very shocking.”

She said it was especially so since the administrative law judges reversed themselves the day before by declaring the Town of Freedom’s 2019 local law that had been overturned by a state Supreme Court judge as invalid would be used and not the town’s 2007 wind law which limited the height of turbines to 450 feet.

Schroeder noted that the general counsel of the siting board is a former lobbyist for Invenergy, the developer of Alle-Catt. “He writes the decisions,” she said.

Wiktor said Alle-Catt would be the largest wind farm in New York state and have the tallest turbines.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2020/06/12/cattaraugus-ida-oks-tax-breaks-for-projects-worth-almost-12m/