BC signs off on Vista financing plan

Stakeholders must visit town, county before bonds can be issued

The Bethlehem Central School District Board of Education this evening gave its approval to a plan that would see the Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency heading construction of Vista Boulevard.

Developers must still have Albany County and the Town of Bethlehem agree to hand over to the IDA any proceeds realized through a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement, which would then be used to pay down tax-free bonds. The PILOT payments would be collected from property owners and tenants in the park.

It's an unconventional arrangement that had several members of the school board running through details with Vista Technology Campus stakeholders. Ultimately, they concluded BC would have nothing to lose by signing off on such a plan.

I most definitely think this is a win-win for the school district and for the town in general, said Superintendent Michael Tebbano.

Vista Boulevard will run 3/4 of a mile into the proposed tech park, and carry in not only traffic but infrastructure like sewer and electricity. It's a key component in getting the stalled Vista project moving, said Joe Nicolla of Columbia Development, who tonight said he has signed leases from four tenants that are contingent on the installation of the road.

He declined to identify those tenants, though several retail interests have been unveiled, including a ShopRite grocery store.

The problem, Nicolla said, is competition from other such developments in the area and a freeze in lending set off by the recession.

"There is no money to put in right now," Nicolla said.

That spawned the idea to have the IDA rustle up the bonds for the estimated $7 million project. The tax-free notes should be more attractive to long-term investors, who Nicolla said would be the ones exposed should the project languish.

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