First Vista tax breaks approved

Construction crews are working to develop a road that will run from Route 85 through the park.

Construction crews are working to develop a road that will run from Route 85 through the park.

The IDA’s abatement scale is designed to be a middle-of-the-road approach compared to incentives offered in counties around the region, according to the agency.

Former Planning Board member and Bethlehem resident John LaForte characterized offering the incentives as inappropriate.

“What the town needs is relief from taxation, primarily from school taxes,” said LaForte.

While the abatements will exempt the businesses from paying property taxes initially, special district taxes such as fire, sewer and water would still need to be paid.

Judi Kehoe, the Chief Business and Financial Officer at the Bethlehem Central School District, offered the district’s support for issuing the breaks despite tax revenues that the district could miss out on over the span of the agreement.

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“We feel that this project poises the community to take advantage of the growth that is occurring in the high-tech industry in our neighboring communities as well,” said Kehoe, who added that the district recognizes the potential for Vista to significantly expand the commercial tax base for the community.

Michael Morelli, the town’s Director of Economic Development and Planning, spoke in support of the projects and the abatements. He reminded those in attendance at the public hearing that the Town Board had approved mixed-use development at the Vista Tech Park, with 80 percent of the floor space to be used for offices and technology businesses, and 20 percent for retail or other secondary uses.

“I think it will send a very important signal to the public at large and potential tenants that after all these years of discussion and review, that Vista now is officially open for business, and we can get this project moving forward,” said Morelli.

At the Nov. 7 meeting, Columbia Development President Joe Nicolla told IDA members that the office and retail split is going to be “far less,” with less than 100,000 square feet of retail likely within the 1.4 million square feet of possible space at the tech park.

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