Saratoga County

IDA denies tax breaks for Victory mill redevelopment

The Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency on Monday dealt a serious and perhaps fatal blow t

The Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency on Monday dealt a serious and perhaps fatal blow to a $24 million plan to rehabilitate the old Victory Packaging mill into an upscale apartment complex.

In a 3-3 vote, the agency failed to approve roughly $760,000 in sales and mortgage tax breaks sought by developer Uri Kaufman, who wants to turn the 19th-century mill into housing.

Shortly after the vote, Kaufman said he didn’t know if he would proceed with his plans. “I have to see if this is still feasible,” he said.

One agency board member, Richard Dunn of Saratoga Springs, was absent, and could have provided a decisive vote. But IDA counsel Michael Toohey said the matter can’t be brought to another vote unless Kaufman files a new application. Kaufman said he would consider that.

Kaufman wants to convert the 250,000-square-foot building overlooking Fish Creek into 98 upscale apartments and a 100-student preschool, but says he can’t afford the project unless he gets tax breaks such as sales tax exemptions on his building materials.

“It’s very important to us and we don’t feel we can do the project without it,” he said during a public hearing before the vote.

The hearing at Victory Village Hall showed many town of Saratoga residents are opposed to granting special tax breaks to Kaufman’s project, and that some also support it.

“I’m not in favor of subsidizing for-profit developers,” said Ian Murray, chairman of the town of Saratoga Planning Board.

Kaufman believes he could rent the units for up to $2,200 a month, with an upscale market that might include workers from the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in Malta.

“The dollar figure he’s proposing doesn’t ring true. My biggest fear is the lack of feasibility,” said Gilman Albert, the town building inspector.

But there were also strong supporters.

“This is an opportunity that should not be missed,” said former Victory Mayor George Sullivan.

Julie Stokes, a town resident and retired state historic preservation officer, said tax breaks can be useful in helping rehabilitate old mills.

“This is smart growth; this is adaptive reuse,” she said.

Kaufman paid Saratoga County $50,000 for the abandoned mill in 2008, after the county acquired it due to unpaid back taxes. No business has operated there since 2000.

The three IDA board members who voted against the application said they had a hard time squaring Kaufman’s housing plan with the IDA’s core mission of promoting new industrial jobs in the county.

“It sets a precedent I’m a little uncomfortable with,” said board member Rod Sutton, who voted against the application along with Michael Mooney and Charles Hanehan.

The three board members who voted for the application said the tax breaks are necessary to a project that could have large long-term economic benefits for Victory, which has only about 600 residents and no industry.

“I think it’s a good project for the village,” said agency Chairman Raymond F. Callanan. Also voting in favor were Glenn Rockwood and Arthur Johnson.

Kaufman estimated he has spent $500,000 to $1 million on stabilizing the building and on economic and environmental studies since he bought the property.

Victory Village Trustee Patrick Dewey expressed disgust with the IDA’s decision.

“What do they want to do with the village?” he asked. “The county will end up owning it again, because the taxes won’t get paid.”

Kaufman, of Nassau County, has been hailed for his transformation a decade ago of the old Harmony Mills complex in Cohoes, but he has also run into opposition elsewhere to his mill rehab projects, which generally rely on tax credits and special tax exemptions.

In Amsterdam, the City Council canceled the city’s deal with him for similar renovation plans at the old Chalmers complex, which is now being demolished. He floated plans to turn a vacant old mill in Broadalbin into luxury apartments, but dropped the idea when he failed to secure a state grant.

Separately from the IDA application, Kaufman is seeking a deal from the town of Saratoga and the village that would reduce the Victory mill’s property taxes for the next 15 years. A public meeting on that — where no decision is expected — is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at the Victory Village Hall.

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