The Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency did not approve tax abatements sought by a residential development after deciding at their Friday, May 23, meeting that approval of the tax credits did not fit with the agency’s mission.
The developers of Glenmont Abbey Village, formerly known as Glenwood Village, were seeking both a sales tax and a mortgage recording exemption worth more than $500,000. The project has been before the town since 2005.
Project Manager Tim Haskins said the money was needed because the project’s funds have degraded over time. The developers had first planned to get funding through a government program that could have helped them obtain 90 percent of the project’s cost, but that program was disbanded after the recession. Now, nearly $4.8 million in equity needs to be raised, and the exemptions would help offset those costs.
“This is quality and affordable housing for Bethlehem seniors,” said Haskins, adding the development will target middle-income seniors who are looking to downsize but remain in the community.
The project has been through seven different site plans since 2005, before finally getting approval this year. The plans call for a 148-unit senior housing development with 48 individual parking garages. Multiple site plans were needed because the property on Glenmont Road consists of five acres of wetlands, and there were concerns from neighbors that needed to be addressed — mostly about traffic.
Supervisor John Clarkson said he did not believe the IDA’s mission statement fit with the project.
“It states specifically, the agency’s mission is to assist the town implementing non-residential development components of the (Comprehensive) Plan, by actively promoting, attracting, obtaining, developing, high quality jobs and capital investment in the town,” read Clarkson.
Joseph Scott, bond counsel for both the town and BIDA, was asked if other IDAs across the state have approved similar projects. Scott said residential developments have been given exemptions, but it usually happens in places like inner cities where a need has been determined.
BIDA members asked Economic Development Coordinator and Senior Planner Elizabeth Staubach if there was a specific need in the town for senior housing. Staubach said no, and there were multiple senior housing projects already in the pipeline.
Ultimately, no one on the Bethlehem IDA forwarded the motion to approve abatements for the project and they were not granted.
Webcasting to continue
Also at the Friday meeting, BIDA members voted to continue webcasting the meeting through the Town of Bethlehem’s Meeting Portal on its website.
Some members said they believed discussions were not as open as before the meetings were webcast, while others thought participation had dropped because residents no longer had to attend the meetings.
Clarkson said Jeff Dammeyer, the town’s director of management of information services, is working with the company who hosts the website to eventually get the number of viewers for past webcasting.
The IDA eventually opted to continue webcasting for the sake of transparency but is seeking feedback from residents about whether or not the videos are useful. Members also want to work on better community outreach in the future.