If Steve Hyde said it once, he said it at least a half-dozen times Tuesday during a public hearing on providing tax incentives for a proposed Holiday Inn Express in Batavia: The Genesee County Economic Development Center wants the input of other hotel owners on the potential economic impact of the proposed project.
"We are most interested in your views on what’s going on in the marketplace so we can share that with the board and they can give it thoughtful consideration," said Hyde, CEO of the GCEDC, near the end of a sometimes slightly contentious public hearing.
About a dozen local hotel operators attended the 4 p.m. meeting.
Typicall at such hearings, members of the public speak, officials listen with little or no response and the meeting ends. But Hyde repeatedly engaged speakers, either with questions or by challenging them to deliver more facts.
"If you have additional facts from validated sources that can justify your position, you should present that to us," Hyde said. "We hear you loud and clear but we need you to provide us with verified facts."
The meeting opened with Mark Masse, VP of operations for GCEDC, presenting an overview of the proposed project and the proposed tax incentives the GCEDC can help deliver.
The developer is Michael Patel and an investment group, Chase Hotel Group, which operates in four states and eight markets. Previously, Patel owned and developed Comfort Inn in Batavia and he currently owns Hampton Inn in Batavia.
The proposed hotel would have 80 rooms and cost $3.5 million to develop.
When completed, the hotel will employ 19 full-time equivalent staff members.
Under the tax abatement proposal, Patel and Chase Hotel Group would receive $112,000 in sales tax exemption, a mortgage tax exemption of $37,500 and a property tax abatement over 10 years of $400,136.
These are taxes, according to Masse, that won't be generated if the project isn't built.
There will be no tax reduction -- meaning no abatement of existing taxes -- for existing tax liabilities on the property.
If the project is built, it should generate more than $800,000 in sales tax over 10 years and $38,700 over 10 years in fire district fees.
The total economic benefit to the community over 10 years is estimated at more than $8.5 million.
Local hotel owners took issue with these numbers saying the figures don't account for lost business, not to mention the potential closure, of existing hotels.
"You say after the Hampton Inn opened there was an occupancy increase," said Chan Patel, owner of the Clarion Inn on Park Road (formerly the Holiday Inn). "I can prove to you that over the next two years, my occupancy went down by 10 percent."
The operators who spoke said they've all seen occupancy rates drop as new hotels have come into the market and they don't see how a market with a 48-percent occupancy rate in market with 1,000 rooms will benefit by adding 80 more rooms.
Jayesh Patel, owner of Travel Lodge, Batavia, argued, as did other hotel owners, that more rooms will mean that all of the hotels will wind up charging lower rates. The Holiday Inn Express, he said, with the benefit of tax breaks, would then have an advantage over established hotel owners who are paying all of their taxes.
"If the developer has faith in the market then they should spend money out of their own pockets rather than out of taxpayer pockets," Jayesh Patel said.
Rashi Dev, owner of the Comfort Inn, said if Michael Patel believes there is such a need for more hotel rooms in Batavia, why is he charging rates at his other property, the Hampton Inn, that are as low or lower than similarly priced hotels in the area.
"The Hampton Inn should have rates $5 or $10 (per night) higher than us," Dev said. "If he's so confident in the market, why does he need to decrease his rate?"
There were no GCEDC board members present at the meeting. GCEDC staff will present the feedback from the public hearing to the board prior to the board voting on the proposal at its March 3 meeting.
Hyde said any factual information hotel owners can provide at least two weeks prior to the March 3 meeting will also be presented to the board and that hotel owners will be given a chance to speak at the March 3 meeting.
Today, Town of Batavia also announced a public hearing on the project with the town's planning board at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 15.
Top photo: Steve Hyde; inset, Chan Patel; bottom, Mark Masse opening the meeting.