Tax breaks sought for Eldred Preserve project
ELDRED – A big renovation and expansion project is in the works at the former Eldred Preserve Restaurant. While a renewed and successful project will eventually aid municipal finances, projected public financial assistance will be costly for town and school district taxpayers, according to Highland Supervisor Jeff Haas.
The Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) has scheduled a public hearing at the Highland Town Hall for 9 a.m., on April 16. The developers, Amytra Development LLC, Eldred Hospitality LLC and Amytra Entertainment LLC applied to the IDA, to gain eligibility to various tax breaks.
According to a public notice IDA transmitted to Haas on April 5 and reportedly sent to the Sullivan County Democrat (SCD) for publication later last week, the project would involve the “reconstruction, renovation, rehabilitation, installation and equipping of a former restaurant motel facility to include approximately 3,064 square foot area of event space, approximately 6,953 square foot of office space and approximately 29,536 square foot of accommodation space…on 37.93 acres located at 1040 Rt. 55…” and further includes installation of “certain furniture, fixtures, machinery, equipment and tools…”
According to a public notice, tax breaks include sales and use taxes, mortgage recording taxes, “consistent with the policies” of IDA and a partial real property tax abatement. Haas announced receipt of the notice at the town board’s April 10 meeting.
The board then took no position on the project, but on April 13 Haas said he had learned more of the financial details. As proposed, the IDA-backed proposal would gain approximately $1 million in tax breaks, including about $250,000 of mortgage recording taxes, and a five-year, 100% exemption from local property taxes. The inactive property is currently taxed more than $16,000 annually. The town has no veto power on the decision. “We’re hoping that we can negotiate this,” he said.
Haas said the costs to the town would be “bad for town taxpayers” and worse for the Eldred School District. “(The town) will eventually gain, but there’s nothing in this for the school, and they’re already in financial trouble,” he said.
The expedited handling of the hearing and selective publication of the notice prompted some skepticism, that perhaps officials had hoped to avoid public opposition. Haas said that IDA had sought to schedule the hearing even earlier, on April 9, but the hall was unavailable; and 9 a.m. on a business day is an unusual and inconvenient hour for most to attend a hearing. Both the SCD and The River Reporter (TRR) are official newspapers in Highland, but TRR reports a considerably wider readership in the town.
An IDA representative will “be at the above-stated time and place to present a copy of the Company’s project application and hear and accept written and oral comments…relevant to the proposed Financial Assistance,” according to the notice.