The Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency (BIDA) has approved tax breaks for Monolith Solar to build its new headquarters inside the Vista Technology Park.
An advanced Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement was granted on Friday, Feb. 28, by the agency. Monolith Solar and SAE Sun and Earth Energy Inc., also sought state sales and mortgage recording tax exemptions to move its headquarters from Rensselaer to Slingerlands. The project will receive about a little more than $680,000 in tax exemptions over the next 11 years.
“I think it’s important to reiterate that this is an important project for Vista,” said BIDA Chairman Frank Veniza. “We’ve done the cost benefit analysis and according to the analysis there’s over $8 million in benefits for the project.”
Supervisor John Clarkson said the entire Vista project has been a benefit to the town.
“In 2015, including 2014-15 for the school district, the town, school and other taxing districts will be receiving $364,000 in tax revenue,” said Clarkson. “This will grow annually as the abatements check out, as the properties grow in value and as new businesses come in, so very good news.”
It was announced at a media event in October that Monolith Solar would be moving its headquarters from Rensselaer to Vista. The project includes a 16,000-square-foot administration building, a 10,000-square-foot building for warehouse and manufacturing and an additional solar farm to potentially provide energy to Vista’s other tenants, as well as other companies who wish to purchase solar panels in the farm.
The $4.9 million project is expected to retain 49 jobs, with the possibility of creating 76 additional jobs within the next five years. The approved PILOT includes a clawback provision if the job number is not met, along with additional state requirements.
“Monolith Solar is looking forward to bringing to fruition plans for our new headquarters, and research and development and manufacturing facility at the Vista Technology Campus. Today’s decision by the Bethlehem IDA will pave the way for us to bring 125 quality jobs to the town, as well as a solar farm that will produce enough electricity to power the majority of the tech park,” said President and CEO of Monolith Solar Mark Forbare in a released statement.
There was cause for some concern that a recent ruling by the state Public Service Commission could harm the Monolith Project, since the commission deemed some types of solar farms and their customers were benefiting unfairly from a regulation that allowed power to be sold back to the grid. After some pushback from solar companies, the ruling has been stayed for the time being.
Tax breaks are no longer being sought for the additional acres needed for the solar farm.
At the IDA meeting, Economic Development and Planning Director Rob Leslie said Monolith Solar projects have yet to be approved by the town’s Planning Board. A lot line adjustment is needed so the new headquarters have enough space for the building, and the solar farm needs to go through a re-subdivision to create a new parcel for the farm.
“I would expect by the end of March, all approvals will be met,” said Leslie.
Developers are continuing to ask for money from Albany County for funds promised in 2003 for Vista. County officials had previously awarded Vista Development Group, LLC a $1 million grant to help with costs for the technology park’s infrastructure. In January, President of Columbia Development Joe Nicolla wrote a letter to Legislature Majority Leader Frank Commisso asking to receive the money, but some in the county felt job requirements might not have been met for the funds to be released.
Last week, the issue went before the county’s Audit and Finance Committee, but no decision was made. Commisso said the project will be sent to the county comptroller for review and a recommendation. If it is found the job numbers have not been met, the money will not be released until the future.