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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.

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 6, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Sarah Noble-Moag appointed to GGLDC board of directors

post by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC, GGLDC, Pavilion

Press release:

The Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. (GGLDC) has appointed Sarah Noble-Moag to the organization’s board of directors.

“Sarah Noble-Moag was selected to serve on the GGLDC board because of her extensive management experience with various dairy companies right here in Genesee County,” said Thomas Felton, GGLDC board chairman. “Her skills and background knowledge of the local agricultural industry will be a tremendous asset to the board.”

Noble-Moag is a personnel manager for Linwood Management Group, LLC, which provides management services to dairy companies, including Noblehurst Farms, and Synergy, LLC. In this role she coordinates staffing, employee payroll and benefits, communication and recruitment for the group along with being responsible for overseeing internal personnel controls and staffing.

In addition to her position with Linwood Management Group, Noble-Moag is very active within the community. She is the past president of the board of education for the Pavilion Central Schools, and continues to serve on the audit committee.

She maintains an active role in education and training for our rural communities, advocating for affordable, quality public education by serving as a board member on the Agricultural Affiliates, which provides leadership necessary to build a strong workforce for agriculture in the Northern U.S. She also is a member of the National Council of Agricultural Employers and New York State Agricultural Society.

Noble-Moag is a graduate of Cornell University and a graduate of Class VI of LEAD New York. She an elder in the Covington Presbyterian Church, and has served on the Committee on Ministry and Migration Working Group (a forum on immigration reform) for the Presbytery of the Genesee Valley.

She resides in Pavilion with her husband, Timothy Moag. They have three grown children.

Monday, September 29, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Photo: Hochul visits ag park for update on economic development

post by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, kathy hochul

Kathy Hochul, former congressional rep for Genesee County and current candidate for lieutenant governor of New York, stopped by the Gensee Valley Agri-Business Park this morning and met with Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC, for an update on economic development efforts locally.  Hochul said once in office economic development will be one of her priorities.

Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Association honors GCEDC and Muller Quaker for economic development

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC, Muller Quaker Dairy

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) and Muller Quaker Dairy are the recipients of the 2014 Northeastern Economic Developers Association (NEDA) Project of the Year Award. The award was formally presented to both entities at NEDA’s Annual Conference on Monday, Sept. 8th in Worcester, Mass.

GCEDC was recognized for fostering the development of the 250-acre Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia, which has generated more than $230 million of new capital investment as well as the creation of approximately 230 jobs. NEDA also recognized Muller Quaker Dairy, a $206 million state-of-the-art yogurt manufacturing facility, which employs almost 200 people in the Agri-Business Park in the competitive $6.2 billion U.S. yogurt marketplace.

“On behalf of the GCEDC Board of Directors and staff we are honored to be recognized by NEDA,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the GCEDC. “I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his personal commitment in bringing Muller Quaker Dairy to Western New York and his tireless efforts to improve the economic development climate throughout Upstate New York.”

Muller Quaker Dairy is projected to have a regional impact of approximately $150 million annually on the local agriculture, hospitality and business services sectors. Indirect job creation is projected to add another 750 workers to the regional labor force.

“This project is a great example of public and private sector collaboration especially in significantly compressing the timeline for various government approvals,” said Chris Suozzi, vice president for business development at the GCEDC. “Through the collaboration with Empire State Development, the Greater Rochester Enterprise the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, National Grid, Genesee County, as well as the City and Town of Batavia, we were able to make the case that Batavia and the Agri-Business Park was the perfect location for Muller Quaker Dairy."

Muller Quaker Dairy is a joint venture between one of Europe’s largest dairy processors, Germany-based Theo Muller and New York-based PepsiCo. It is the largest manufacturing plant ever to open in Genesee County.

The NEDA Project of the Year award recognizes a major economic development project based on job creation and other direct economic impacts; capital investment; leveraging of development resources; use of public/private and/or intergovernmental partnerships; benefits to the surrounding community and/or environment; innovation; design excellence; and transportation considerations.

Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 9:40 am

Developer discusses pulling plug on senior housing project after GCEDC board blocks public funding

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

A company that was planning to build much needed middle-income senior housing in Genesee County is apparently ready to kill the project after the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board voted Tuesday to block the project from receiving financial aid.

A representative of Calamar, the senior housing developer, sent an e-mail to a county official yesterday that said without the more than $1.4 million in tax breaks Calamar was seeking, the project is not financially viable. 

A source provided The Batavian with a copy of the e-mail.

"We've been left with no options than to not proceed," wrote Jocelyn Bos, director of senior housing development for Calamar. "If we do not have an endorsement, I wouldn't be able to keep the rents affordable to the middle income senior group of Batavia." 

Asked by The Batavian for further comment and to confirm the contents of the e-mail, Bos backed off the not-proceeding statement.

Her entire statement:

First, I want to tell you how I have admired how your paper supports the seniors of all incomes in your community and just want to let you know that we are exploring our options regarding our proposed middle-income senior complex.

According to John Gerace, a real estate agent who assisted Calamar with locating the property on West Main Street Road for the project, Calamar officials spent much of yesterday discussing their options.

Among them, he said, is filing an Article 78 claim (essentially a lawsuit) against GCEDC.

The way Gerace sees it, middle-income housing for seniors is needed in Batavia; it's part of the county's master plan; it's an identified need in GCEDC's planning documents; and this is a commercial project just like any other, so it's eligible for assistance.

"I told them (the GCEDC board), 'you guys should be ashamed of yourselves because you know it's warranted and needed, so what you've done is just shut the door on any more senior housing in Genesee County,' " Gerace said.

Calamar was seeking $400,000 in sales tax and mortgage tax exemption and a $1 million PILOT, which exempts a property from additional property taxes on an increase in assessed value, graduated over 10 years.

The value of the developed property would have been at least $5 million, Gerace said, which would have meant an additional $175,000 in new local property tax revenue once the PILOT expired. 

Local residents selling their homes to move into the Calamar facility also would have generated new tax revenue, Gerace said.

Gerace worked as a secondary agent on the property sale, he said, and stood to get no more than a $4,000 commission on the $1 million sale of the property on West Main Street Road.

Ray Cianfrini, chairman of the County Legislature, and a GCEDC board member, said he voted against Calamar because he can't see authorizing spending $1.4 million in taxpayer money to create two jobs.

"We all agreed that it's a worthwhile project," Cianfrini said. "We all agree middle-income senior housing is needed. We agree with that, we just don't want to spend taxpayer money to do it. If the project doesn't go forward, I feel badly about that, but this was not a narrow vote."

Cianfrini said he also sees the Calamar project as competition for existing senior housing in the county -- housing that was built without taxpayer assistance.

Calamar would have been able to charge lower rents than some existing projects and that wouldn't be fair to the other developers, Cianfrini said.

The idea of competition is the key to the vote, Gerace said. More new housing in the county would mean more competition for Pete Zeliff and his Oakwood Estates project on the east side of town.

Zeliff, a newer member of the GCEDC board, is building single-family homes that would be marketed to upper-income professionals.

Gerace thinks that creates a conflict of interest for Zeliff and Cianfrini, who is the attorney for Zeliff on the project.

Cianfrini and Zeliff said both said don't see a conflict of interest. The two projects are completely different. They're aimed at different markets -- one is rental, the other is home ownership. Even if you factor in existing homes being vacated by seniors moving into the Calamar project, that's still a very different home buyer looking at those older homes than would consider something in Oakwood Estates.

Zeliff has not even approached the GCEDC about financial incentives for Oakwood Estates. He said his vote against the Calamar project had everything to do with the merits of the proposal.

"They're creating just two jobs at cost of $1.4 million," Zeliff said. "That's $700,000 a job. The residents complain when the EDC gives incentives to industry that is $100,000 a job, why would the residents want to commit $700,000 to a job to residential housing?"

And yes, competition is an issue -- Calamar would compete with projects such as Clinton Crossings, which charges $1,100 a month in rent. Calamar's taxpayer-subsidized rents would all be $1,000 or less.

Clinton Crossings received no tax incentives for its project, Zeliff said.

"They have 35 people on the waiting list waiting to get in," Zeliff said. "The area will support senior housing at the money Calamar claims it won't."

Gerace wonders why the GCEDC board wouldn't even let the project go to a public hearing, allowing the public to weigh in on whether Calamar should get tax incentives to help build much needed senior housing.

Cianfrini said he didn't see any point in a public hearing.

"My position, if we don't believe in the project in the first instance, why let it go to a public hearing when we know we're going to vote it down after a public hearing," Cianfrini said. "We just thought we'd be wasting valuable time to even let it go to a public hearing. If they want to know what the public viewpoint on this is, let them poll the public themselves and get their own opinion on it."

Friday, August 8, 2014 at 2:53 pm

GCEDC to consider three projects at meeting Tuesday, including Batavia Shoes, LLC

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

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) will consider three projects at its August 12, 2014, board meeting.

Muller Quaker Dairy is planning to improve its data infrastructure with a new enterprise backup and test environment solution, a project which would retain 143 jobs. The benefitted amount of project the GCEDC board can assist with is $185,000 and the total project incentive request is $14,800 for sales tax exemptions only. The board will consider a final resolution for the project.

Batavia Shoes LLC is planning to purchase the assets, manufacturing facility and client lists of PW Minor, a manufacturer and distributor of leather footwear and orthopedic products located in the City of Batavia. The board will accept the application for the project and consider an initial resolution.

Calamar is planning to build a 117,000-square-foot, three-story building that will house 110 senior apartment units, a lobby and common rooms in the Town of Batavia. The company is investing $11 million which will create up to 200 temporary construction jobs. The board will consider an initial resolution that will set a public hearing for the project.

The GCEDC Board meeting will take place at noon and is open to the public. Meetings are held at the Dr. Bruce A. Holm Upstate Med & Tech Park -- 99 MedTech Drive, Batavia, NY, on the 2nd floor, across from Genesee Community College.

Sunday, July 13, 2014 at 8:35 pm

GCEDC approves USG project in Oakfield

post by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC, Oakfield, U.S. Gypsum

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) approved a final resolution for application for assistance from United States Gypsum Co. (USG) at the July 10, 2014, board meeting. 

United States Gypsum Company Co. (USG) is planning to upgrade its paper mill at 2750 Maple Ave. in Oakfield, NY. The project will include replacing and relocating equipment, stock cleaning and enhanced manila production to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of the facility.

The upgrades will consist of three phases and is expected to commence in 2016. The projected capital investment is approximately $23 million and the investment will retain 98 manufacturing jobs and create 12 new production jobs.

In other matters, Graham Corporation’s 2013 project with the GCEDC involved expansion of its operations on Harvester Avenue, Howard Street and Florence Streets, in the city of Batavia. There has been a longer than anticipated construction time on these projects and Graham Corporation is requesting a PILOT amendment in order to delay the commencement of the PILOT by one year. This amendment will not result in any additional incentives for the project.   

“The significant investments in businesses right here in our region is strongly reflective of the ongoing economic growth we continue to witness in all industry sectors,” said Wallace Hinchey, GCEDC Board chairman.

Sunday, July 13, 2014 at 8:26 pm

GCEDC adopts new policy requiring local labor on incentive projects

post by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) Board of Directors unanimously voted to adopt a new local labor policy at the organization’s July board meeting. The new policy was developed by the GCEDC Governance and Nominating Committee.

According to the policy, at least 90 percent of non-management construction labor on projects in excess of $5 million construction costs that receive local incentives from the GCEDC must employ workers within the “Local Labor Area” which has been defined as individuals residing in Genesee, Orleans, Monroe, Wyoming, Livingston, Wayne, Ontario, Seneca, Yates, Niagara, Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.

“I want to thank the members of the Governance and Nominating Committee for developing a fair and balanced local labor policy. We do not believe it is unreasonable to ask companies that receive incentives and benefits from our agency to hire locally,” said GCEDC Board Chairman Wolcott Hinchey. “In addition, the local labor area has been defined to include a large area of Western New York to be able to utilize our talented and productive workforce that is readily available to general contractors and subcontractors who work on these economic development projects.”

The policy will allow for companies that receive benefits from the GCEDC to request a waiver for exemption from the local policy in certain circumstances, including the installation of specialized equipment of materials where the manufacturer requires local installation by only approved installers; specialized construction where workers from the “Local Labor Area” are not available; but the company must provide documentation that there is a lack of those particular workers in the “Local Labor Area.”

Companies that receive incentives from the GCEDC will be required to file quarterly reports documenting that they are utilizing workers from the “Local Labor Area” based on the total construction job numbers. Failure to comply with the quarterly reports could result in a company’s incentives being rescinded by the GCEDC.

“This policy is not about meeting job numbers as there are always issues that are beyond a company’s control such as a downturn in the economy; the policy is simply about companies insisting that their contractors and subcontractors hire local laborers,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the GCEDC. “The bottom line is that if companies are receiving local tax breaks, then they should be hiring local laborers.”

Monday, July 7, 2014 at 5:15 pm

GCEDC board to consider projects at meeting on Wednesday

post by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC

This is from the GCEDC:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) will consider two projects at its July 10, 2014, board meeting. The GCEDC Board meeting will take place at 4 p.m. and is open to the public. Meetings are held at the Dr. Bruce A. Holm Upstate Med & Tech Park -- 99 MedTech Drive, Batavia, NY, on the 2nd floor, across from Genesee Community College. 

U.S. Gypsum Company is planning to upgrade its paper mill at 2750 Maple Ave. in Oakfield, NY. The project will include replacing and relocating equipment, stock cleaning and enhanced manila production to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of the facility. The projected capital investment is approximately $23 million and will ensure retention of 98 existing manufacturing jobs and the addition of 12 new production jobs. The board will consider a final resolution for this project.

Calamar Senior Housing is planning to construct a 117,000-square-foot, three-story building that will house 110 senior apartment units, a lobby and common rooms in the Town of Batavia. The facility they have proposed here in Batavia will be restricted to residents 55 years and older, and is scheduled to have many amenities that will create a holistic senior community including: a full-time director, events, educational seminars, meals, transportation, etc. The apartments will rent at market rate from around $805 to $1,050 per month with all major appliances and utilities included. The look, style, amenities offered at the proposed development to ensure effective “aging in place” models for our seniors.  Overall the company plans to invest $11 million, create two full-time positions, and estimates that 200 construction jobs will be needed to complete the facility. The facility will generate long-term tax base for the County without added demands for services on our school districts. The board will consider an initial resolution for this project as the incentives exceed $100,000.

Graham Corporation’s 2013 project with the GCEDC involved expansion of their operations on Harvester Avenue, Howard Street, and Florence Street in the City of Batavia. There has been a longer than anticipated construction time on these projects and Graham Corporation is requesting a PILOT amendment in order to delay the commencement of the PILOT by one year. This amendment will not result in any additional incentives and Graham will receive the total incentives that the board previously approved.

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