Vista financing gets Bethlehem's OK

Concerns remain on lack of tech tenants

The Vista Technology Campus has cleared another developmental hurdle with the Bethlehem Town Board's approval of a financing plan that is intended to make possible the construction of Vista Boulevard.

Along with the OK from the Bethlehem Central School District, Vista interests now only need to convince Albany County lawmakers to allow a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) structure to be put in place to back bonds issued through the Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency. The County Legislature will consider the proposal May 9.

As with the school board, the Town Board had extensive questions this evening. The IDA wants to handle the construction of the 3/4-mile road, to be financed through tax-free bonds. Those bonds would be bought up by private investors and then paid off by a PILOT levied on the landowner, passed on to tenants. In roundabout way, business owners will be paying for the road, but due to the nature of the agreement and state law the IDA must get all three taxing jurisdictions to sign off on the proposal.

It's not something you see every day, and this had Town Board members quizzing Joseph Scott, the IDA's bond counsel, on the details. Most wanted to make sure taxpayers would not end up losing out.

You're not giving up anything, because it's not money that you would otherwise be entitled to, Scott said.

He went on to outline how the town, county and school district would still realize the taxes already collected on the land as well as any future taxes levied on the buildings erected at the Slingerlands development. This PILOT structure would be independent of those receipts and be targeted only at repaying the bonds.

"We do not use or affect the current money that's collectedand we're not going to use or affect in any way the money generated by development of the site," he said.

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