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Friday, November 14, 2014 at 11:20 am

Senior housing developer sues GCEDC over project rejection

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Calamar, GCEDC, housing, senior housing

A developer seeking to build a senior housing complex in Batavia has filed a lawsuit against the Genesee County Economic Development Center over the board's decision in July to block the project from receiving tax breaks.

The suit alleges that the GCEDC board's decision was "arbitrary and capricious, irrational, an abuse of discretion and affected by an error of law."

The suit calls for a court-ordered reversal of the decision to deny Calamar a public hearing on the project and the proposed tax abatement. 

It doesn't ask the court to actually grant the tax breaks. Typically, the GCEDC board votes on whether to grant tax exemptions after a public hearing. Calamar is seeking to present its project to the public and give the public a chance to weigh in on whether it should receive more than $1.4 million in tax breaks for the project.

Calamar has a contract to purchase 33.4 acres at 3989 W. Main Street Road, Batavia. The development plans call for 110 middle-income apartment units rented exclusively to people 55 and older.

The developer, with offices in New York, Canada, Massachusetts and Nebraska, says it plans to invest more than $11 million in the project.

GCEDC's position is that the lawsuit is without merit. 

Here is a statement provided by Rachael J. Tabelski, marketing and communications director for GCEDC:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center is in receipt of a notice of a file of claim against our organization by Calamar Enterprises as a result of a recent vote by the GCEDC board.

We believe the allegations in the claim are without merit and will be determined by the courts as such.

As this is a legal matter, the GCEDC will have no further comment.

The suit implies that Calamar was misled about GCEDC's willingness to support the project and that the board's decision went both against GCEDC's own policy and prior approvals for similar projects.

The project was first presented to the board by Mark Masse, VP of operations for GCEDC, in February.  Masse said during the meeting, according to a quote in Calamar's petition, that he was looking for feedback from the board. 

Calamar said that GCEDC's attorney told the board that although the project wasn't manufacturing, "This project is authorized and allowable under IDA law."

At a March 6 meeting, CEO Steve Hyde reportedly informed the board that GCEDC had participated in housing projects previously, such as the Manor House and the Jerome Center.

The petition claims that Masse continued to work closely with Calamar officials on project plans and proposed tax incentives in the following months.

At a staff meeting in June, the petition states, Masse gave every indication the project would get a green light.

"At no time during this meeting did Mr. Masse state that the Agency had concerns about the Project or was unwilling to support the Project," the document states. "To the contrary, all statements made and actions taken by Mr. Masse indicated that the Project had the support of the GCEDC, justifying the significant investment of time and resources by Calamar."

The project was put before the board July 10 for approval of a public hearing.

The board voted to deny Calamar a public hearing on the project and Calamar is accusing two board members of a conflict of interest on the project.

Pete Zeliff (mistakenly named "Paul" in the petition,) and Ray Cianfrini both spoke against tax breaks for the project and voted against setting a public hearing.

The conflict arises, according to Calamar, because Zeliff is building a single-family residential project on East Main Road, Batavia, and Cianfrini, also chair of the Genesee County Legislature, sometimes provides legal counsel to Zeliff.

"The agency's mission is to further the development of industries and create jobs and that housing should stand on its own," Calamar quotes Zeliff as saying.

Calamar claims to have been unaware of Zeliff's development interests at the time of the meeting.

To further emphasize the alleged conflict, Calamar quotes from a story published in The Batavian where Zeliff denies there is a conflict.

In that story, Zeliff noted that the two projects are completely different and do not overlap intended housing markets. Calamar is building apartments for seniors. Zeliff is building houses for families.

The petition states, "Zeliff also acknowledged that competition was an issue influencing his vote," and goes on to say that Zeliff voted against the project to protect his own Oakwood Estates development. 

The characterization of what Zeliff told The Batavian is misleading. Zeliff drew the distinction between his own project and said he didn't see Calamar's project as competitive with it, but noted that another senior housing project, Clinton Crossing, has proceeded without government aid and has a waiting list of residents trying to move in. He said the Calamar project, if it received assistance, would have an unfair, subsidized advantage over Clinton Crossing.

Zeliff does not have a financial interest in Clinton Crossing.

The suit also criticizes Zeliff and Cianfrini for misstating how many jobs the project would create. 

Rather than just two jobs, Calamar claims the project would add 4.5 full-time equivalent non-employee jobs (contractors) as well as dozens of construction jobs during the project development.

The rejection, the petition states, was taken "without any findings or reasoning," which Calamar claims is required if the board is going against either past practices or policy.

Calamar is also critical of GCEDC for having a vague Uniform Tax Exemption Policy (UTEP), and notes that the state's comptroller's office had the same criticism of GCEDC earlier this year.

"The Comptroller found that this failure to have formalized evaluation criteria resulted in an inconsistent approach by the Board and a lack of objective evaluation of proposed projects," the petition states.

Calamar claims to have received tax incentives for similar projects in Niagara County, Erie County, Stueben County and Auburn.

There is a great need in Genesee County for such a project, Calamar tells the court. According to the 2010 Census, 28.5 percent of the local population is 55 or older and 23.7 percent is 40 to 55.

The Genesee County Housing Focus Group's strategic plan states, according to Calamar, "senior apartment shortages have been noted as a major concern."

Calamar's project would be marketed to people 55 and older with an annual income of $35,000 to $45,000, and residents would only be those not receiving government housing assistance.

The 117,000-square-foot facility would offer one and two bedroom apartments with rents from $805 to $1,050 per month. There would be a full-time director on site, with events, educational seminars, meals, exercise instruction, home helpers, cleaning services, health system services and transportation offered.

The 33 acres of the proposed project is currently assessed at $166,400. The anticipated increase in assessed value is not stated, but the total value of the PILOT would be $854,580, with Calamar paying 20 percent of the taxes on the increase in assessed value in the first year. Calamar would pay an increasing share of taxes up to 100 percent by year 11.

Other proposed tax abatements are $454,744 on sales tax for materials and an exemption of the $120,000 mortgage tax on the purchase of the property.

The suit claims both Masse and GCEDC attorney Russ Gaenzle were shocked by the board's vote and exhibits include copies of their e-mails.

No hearing date has been set yet for the suit.

Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Reminder: Shop local and support the businesses that support The Batavian

post by Howard B. Owens in business, thebatavian

We've not done a post like this in a long time, but with the holidays coming on fast, it is important to remind readers of the importance of shopping locally as often as possible.

When you support the businesses that are owned by people in our local or regional community, you are helping to support your local community. As much of 70 percent of every dollar spent at a local business stays in the local community. That has a ripple effect of benefits locally, from employment to donations to local charities to more spending power for everyone.

At The Batavian, supporting local business and family owned business isn't something we do just once in a while as part of an advertising supplement. It's what we do every day. Our home page is a daily reminder to support local businesses.

Please remember not only to shop locally first, but please also be sure to frequent the sponsors of The Batavian and let them know you appreciate their support of independent local news.

Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle
Alberty's Drug Store
Alli's Cones & Dogs
Allstate
American Home Remodeling
Barrett's Batavia Marine and Sporting Supplies
Batavia Country Club
Batavia Downs
Batavia Gold Rush
Batavia Improvement District
Batavia Redemption Center, Eastown Beverages
Batavia Tailors & Cleaners
Beds 'n' Bones Pet Lodge
Belhaven Kennels
Bill Fox and Son Construction & Remodeling
Blue Pearl Yoga
Bob Harris Realty - Robert J. Gerace
Bohn's Restaurant
Bontrager's Real Estate
Bourbon & Burger Co.
Brighton Securities
Bubba's Landscaping
Calling All Dogs
CB Beach Mortuary
Cedar St. Sales and Rentals
Center Street Smokehouse
Chesley's Auto
City Slickers
Classic Optical
Council Opticians
Crazy Cheap Cars
Dan's Tire
Darien Auto Parts
D&R Depot Restaurant
Deep Blue Pool & Spa
Delre's Greenhouse & Garden Center
Derrick Monument Company
Detail Shop (Pellegrino's)
Dougherty Heating Company, Inc.
D'Tangles
Empire Tractor
Falcone Family Funeral & Cremation Service, Inc.
Falleti Motors
Fastec Automotive
Ficarella's Pizzeria
First Choice Travel
Floral Fantasies
Foxprowl Collectibles
Frankly Design
Genesee County Emergency Services
Genesee Dental Group
Genesee Orthopaedics
Geer Farm Services
Gilmartin
GLOW Jobs
Godfrey's Pond
Greens of LeRoy
Hair Studio 25
Hardcor Audio
Harris Wilcox
House of Kolor
Haul-4-Less
H.E. Turner & Co.
High Voltage Tattoo
Humphrey's Electric & Security
Genesee Urgent Care
J. Leonard McAndrew

Jagged Edges Salon
Jay E. Potter & Sons
Jim Saraceni - Prime Lending
John's Service Station
Karen's Yarn Paper Scissors
Ken Barrett
KleenAll
Kreative Design Kitchen & Bath
Larry's Steakhouse
L&L Transmission, Inc.
L.C. Mosman
Lamb Family Medicine
Lambert's Design Jewelers
Le Roy Counseling
Le Roy Hearth & Home
Lucky Ducky Daycare
Main St. Pizza Company
Matteo & Mullen, CPA
Max Pies
Millennium Computer
My Saloon
Nature's Best Hydro-Garden Center
Next Level Fitness
O'Lacy's Irish Pub
Oakfield Fitness
Oliver's Candies
Optique
Parmenter Tire, Auto & Truck Services
Pellegrino Auto Sales
Pembroke Family Medicine
Precision Lawn Care
Pudgie's Lawn & Garden
R&D Outlet
RW Vapors
Radley's Auto Detailing
Ray Station Coal & Stoves
Reed Eye Associates
S.C.O.P.E. of Genesee County
Santino's Pizza
Scooter's Restaurant (Le Roy)
Select Collision
Settler's Restaurant
Sloat's Tire
Smokin' Eagle Brew & BBQ
Southside Deli
Spirits
Stella Collision
Sweet Ecstasy Bakery & Bistro
T.F. Brown's
The Finishing Line
The Insurance Center
The Mane Attraction
The Manor House
The Rack Shack
Tomaszewski Funeral & Cremation Chapel
Trash Away
Turnbull Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration
Valle Jewelers
Viking Valhalla/Rose Garden Bowl
Vinyl Sticks
WNY Fireplace Outlet
Watch Your Kitty
West Main Wine & Spirits
Western Regional Off Track
William Kent, Inc.
Woody's Deli
YWCA
Yasses Construction
Yngodess Shop
Yume Asian Bistro

 

Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Local caterer now offering BBQ at Willow Bend every Wednesday evening

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Willow Bend Inn

In Western New York we love our BBQ, so it's not surprising that another Genesee County resident is finding his own success with slow-cooked ribs and his own sauce.

Mike Swiatowy has been running his own catering business for years. About five years ago, he added BBQ and this year, he said, the business has really taken off. So much that his wife, Kristi, gave up her hair and nail business that she's run for 25 years.

Three weeks ago, Swiatowy came into a new location for his ribs, pulled pork, brisket and chicken -- the Willow Bend Inn.

After serving wings and beef on weck at the Polish Falcon's Club for a few years, he wanted to expand and the partnership with the Willow Bend Inn has given him the venue to do that.

"It's worked out great," Swiatowy said. "I think it's a great atmosphere for BBQ."

We tried the ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket with beans, slaw and mac and cheese. We loved the meal. The meat is as it should be -- fall-off-the-bone tender, flavorful and moist. The sauce is both sweet and savory.

Swy's BBQ also offers chicken, pulled chicken, hickory-smoked chicken wings and traditional chicken wings.

There's also a full line of catering available. For more information, visit the Web site. Swy's is also available for fundraisers.

If you can't wait until Wednesday to try the BBQ at Willow Bend, Swy's is participating in the Holiday Festival on Saturday at Batavia High School from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 8:06 pm

Chamber introduces 2015 board at annual meeting

post by Howard B. Owens in business, chamber of commerce

Press release:

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce unveiled its 2015 Board of Directors at the Chamber’s Annual Membership Meeting at Bohn’s Restaurant Thursday.  

Serving on the Board in 2015 are Steven Beardsley, Bank Of Castile; Tim Call, Empire Tractor; Keith Conway, Z&M Ag and Turf; Dan Harvey, Graham Corporation; Dennis Kohl, Darien Lake Amusement Park; Steve Krna, Genesee Patrons Cooperative Insurance Company; Hiedi Librock, Town of Batavia; Jonathon Mager, Arctic Refrigeration Company of Batavia, Inc.;

Chan Patel, Clarion Hotel; Steve Pies, Max Pies Furniture; Michael R. Rivers, Rybak, Metzler & Grasso, PLLC; Chris Suozzi, Genesee County Economic Development Center; Joseph Teresi, Tompkins Insurance Agencies, Inc.; Eric Wies, Clark Patterson Lee; and Jennifer Zambito, GCASA.

Keynote speaker at the luncheon was Vinnie Esposito, executive director of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Council. Esposito praised Genesee County for being a leader in economic development and predicted a bright future for the county’s business community.

Chamber President Tom Turnbull gave an overview of the past year at the Chamber and outlined plans for 2015 initiatives. According to Turnbull, the Chamber will continue to fulfill its mission to create an environment for business success and improve the quality of life for all citizens of Genesee County.    

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm

13WHAM News launches partnerships with The Batavian and Wyoming County Free Press

post by Billie Owens in 13WHAM News, business, thebatavian

Press release:

In an effort to enhance awareness of critical issues across the Rochester/Finger Lakes Region, WHAM-TV and WUHF-TV announce the formation of a new partnership with The Batavian and Wyoming County Free Press.

13WHAM News, Rochester’s broadcast news ratings leader, is joining forces with the online news sites The Batavian and Wyoming County Free Press to provide enhanced coverage of Genesee and Wyoming County news. The partnership involves an exchange of news content and other informational resources to better serve the needs of families and businesses in those counties.

“The impact of community coverage is best relayed by the professionals who cover these beats every day,” says Matt Malyn, WHAM and WUHF news director. “It is for that reason we are excited to welcome The Batavian and Wyoming County Free Press to the 13WHAM News team.”

"Since the earliest days of The Batavian, we've enjoyed a strong cooperative relationship with the news team at 13WHAM," said Howard Owens, publisher of The Batavian and the Wyoming County Free Press. "We've shared news tips, exchanged leads and cooperated on stories in a way that has helped both news organizations serve their audiences better. The news team at 13WHAM is one of the best in the WNY region. We're excited to join forces in a more formal arrangement to help improve news coverage for the communities we serve."

Malyn added: “Over the years Howard Owens and his team have proven their commitment to the good people of Genesee County and we’re excited to join his recent efforts to expand his news operation into Wyoming County. Those are both communities that the 13WHAM News team has served for more than five decades.”

The Batavian continues to enjoy a solid news partnership with WBTA AM 1490 radio, which it officially joined forces with more than five years ago.

The Batavian was founded by Howard Owens in 2008 as an experimental project for a national news chain and eight months later, Howard and his wife Billie became sole owners of The Batavian. In six years, Howard and Billie have taken the audience of The Batavian from a few hundred daily readers, to between 10,000 and 14,000 daily readers, and 120,000 monthly, making it the most widely read news source in Genesee County.

The Wyoming County Free Press was launched two months ago and its audience continues to grow. Julia Ferrini is the site's editor.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 11:00 am

Photos: New escalators being installed at Batavia Downs

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business

Batavia Downs is in the home stretch of a $20 million expansion that includes a new gaming floor, a new sign, new offices, and in the final phase, a new facade and entry on Park Road.

Today, a pair of 7,500-pound escalators are being installed and soon a statue of Fortuna, the goddess of good luck, will arrive from Wisconsin.

With the last major pieces in place, it's just a matter of putting on the finishing touches.

The new gaming floor, now on the first floor, opened last October. The old gaming floor on the second level is now offices for Batavia Downs and Western OTB staff.

The escalator to the second floor will provide access to the clubhouse and grandstands as well as a new OTB inter-track wagering facility, which will move from its current location across the street on Park Road.

The entry way will feature lighted neon and Fortuna will stand through a hole in the ceiling so she can be viewed from ground level or from up above.

"It's just going to look incredible," said Ryan Hasenauer, marketing director for Batavia Downs.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Insource Urgent Care is now Genesee Urgent Care and other changes are in the works

post by Billie Owens in business, Health Care

Insource Urgent Care is now Genesee Urgent Care, and there are other changes in store for the acute healthcare provider that opened in Batavia just last year.

For one, Melissa Marsocci is now the sole owner of the business, located Downtown at 35 Batavia City Centre. (Three other locations were sold earlier this year to urgent care groups in Philadelphia and Auburn.) And as head of the company, Marsocci has "really innovative plans."

"Batavia has always been 'the model' for the characteristics I've wanted," said the 30-year-old lifelong Genesee County resident.

One of those is the expansion of telemedicine. The center has a contract with Genesee Community College to augment its student health services. Marsocci donated desktop telemedicine equipment to the college to enable Genesee Urgent Care to see students as patients virtually, seven days a week.

They are planning to roll out a telemedicine system the week before Thanksgiving. If a student isn't feeling well, he or she could go to the telemedicine area, which would have a nurse on duty, and there a dialog could take place with Genesee Urgent Care about appropriate care.

Marsocci calls this the "hub-spoke model."

She sees it as having global applications.

"We are researching putting in a (telemedicine) clinic to help a Christian missionary in Haiti and the Dominican Republic to provide care for people," Marsocci said.

The company is making a big push into occupational medicine, too, and negotiations are under way with two orthopedic groups.

Genesee wants to partner with a psychiatrist for "telepsychiatry," and to sublease space to an oncology group to see patients on site.

A Downtown daycare center in the building wouldn't be a bad idea either.

"I would like to get support for other medical businesses in the building so we could offer (daycare) as a service to patients," Marsocci said.

Genesee has teamed up with another firm to craft a commonsense healthcare option that would "give employers a means of circumventing Obama Care." Because she wants to trademark the plan, which targets self-funded health plans, she is keeping pretty tight-lipped about it.

Awhile back, she said the company was briefly without a healthcare plan for its employees and the available options were a sorry lot.

"My premiums went up 20 percent," she said. "Employees who were used to paying $20 to $40 deductibles, were now paying for an office visit because of high-deductible plans."

The lawsuit with Health Now, the BlueShield BlueCross franchise for WNY, is settled and Genesee Urgent Care now takes their insurance.

As regards staffing, there's a new medical director. Dr. Tom Malinich has replaced Dr. Magdi Credi, but for the foreseeable future Credi will remain on staff and continue to be a valuable mentor. Dr. Henry Moscicki, DNP, is at the clinic once a week.

"He blends into the hybrid model we've always prided ourselves on," Marsocci said.

There are no other changes to speak of but the center is in hiring mode.

"We still promise to see patients within 15 minutes," Marsocci said. "We have no intention of replacing primary care doctors. But it is important that patients needing acute care be followed."

(The sign currently on the outside of the building in City Centre will soon be replaced. The job is out to bid locally.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 8:56 am

Photos: BDC recognizes businesses that successfully complete loan program

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bdc, business

During Monday's meeting of the Batavia City Council, three local businesses were honored by the Batavia Development Corp.

Each received a plaque in recognition of the owners' successful completion of a loan program that helped them expand or grow their businesses.

Above, Susan Francis, owner of The Color Salon, with the her husband John Zola, receiving a plaque from Ray Chaya, a member of the BDC Board, Council President Brooks Hawley, and BDC VP Gregg Torrey.

Steve Mullen, owner of Larry's Steakhouse.

Mary Valle, co-owner of Valle Jewelers.

Monday, October 27, 2014 at 2:00 pm

GCEDC approves amended purchase agreement for insurance auction house in Bergen

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, business, GCEDC

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) approved an application for an amended purchase agreement for Insurance Auto Auctions, Inc. (IAA) at its Oct. 27 board meeting.

“Even before IAA has put a shovel in the ground, the company is already expanding its footprint which bodes well for our region in terms of jobs and continued economic development in Genesee County,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO, GCEDC.

In June, the GCEDC board accepted IAA’s offer to purchase 30 acres at Apple Tree Acres. During the company’s due diligence period, IAA’s engineers discovered that more useable acres were required to meet the long-term objectives of the company. The GCEDC and the Town of Bergen worked with IAA to increase the proposed site to 36.2 acres. The Apple Trees Acres Corporate Park is a 119-acre site in the Town of Bergen located on routes 33 and 19.

“IAA is committed to expanding its presence in communities where there is strong customer demand,” said John Kett, CEO and president of IAA. “We look forward to being part of the Bergen community, and thank the GCEDC board for approving this application, which will enable us to better serve our customers and providers in the area.”

Insurance Auto Auctions, Inc., (IAA) is the leading live and live-online North American salvage vehicle auction company with the most auction facilities footprint in North America. The company is committed to providing customers with the highest level of services and has more than 160 auction facilities across the United States and Canada offering towing, financing and titling services. IAA provides registered buyers from around the globe with millions of opportunities to bid on and purchase donated and salvaged vehicles.

Monday, October 27, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Photos: Auction at Delavan's clears out building

post by Howard B. Owens in auction, batavia, business, Delavan's Restaurant

Dozens of people, including a few local business owners, packed into the former Delavan's Restaurant, 107 Evans St., Batavia, this morning for an auction of the building's contents.

Everything sold, except for the kitchen sink and the building it's attached to.

The real estate is still available, so here's your chance to own your own bar and grill, or maybe the ultimate man cave.

The auction was conducted by Bontrager's.

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