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What the Hell is a PILOT and Why Does I-Square Need One to Take Off?

October 21st, 2012

Mike and Wendy Nolan attempt to explain the need for a 25 year PILOT tax program for their I-Square project.
The I-Square project which was widely celebrated when it was announced last year has gotten tangled up in “negotiations” over local tax deals. Mike & Wendy Nolan want to invest $13 million to build a 7-building project including a new street, sidewalks and outdoor stage / “town square” area. They say they need a 25 PILOT agreement in order to be able to afford to build and maintain the project they’ve proposed. The Town of Irondequoit have offered a 10 year PILOT. Both sides seem to have dug in their heals. Today the Nolan’s posted a video on YouTube to explain (in detail) their 25 Year PILOT proposal “so that any questions can be answered and any misconceptions cleared up.” Watch the video…

What is a PILOT program? Payment In Lieu Of Taxes. These payments are used in the same way as regular tax payments, but are agreed upon in advance. The payment amount typically starts off smaller and gradually increases over time.

I-Square, as proposed, would contain a block of seven buildings near Irondequoit's Titus Avenue-Cooper Road intersection. Titus is at the top of the photo.

Mike Nolan says a 25 year PILOT is essential, not only to limit and accurately predict tax expenses, but also to be able to apply for affordable financing, and other public income sources. Nolan says this will allow him time to recover the initial capital expenses of the project, “especially those that will not generate revenue” like the new road, sidewalks, lighting, and sewers which I-Square will be paying for.

The town supervisor has suggested external link that if the Nolan’s can’t afford to build the project without the 20 PILOT they are requesting, perhaps they should scale back the plans. And if they agree to anything more than a 10 year program an unfair precedent will be set for future developments.

Nolan disagrees and points to the unique circumstances of the I-Square project. For example, the Nolan’s are not developers – they are citizens of the town who want to invest $13 million of their own money into a project to benefit the town. And, they argue, the pedestrian focused approach to the project’s design will make I-Square a unique draw for people who won’t otherwise come to Irondequoit from neighboring towns.

A perspective drawing of the I-Square project as originally proposed a year ago.

Well, the video certainly was detailed. But my brain has now glazed over like a doughnut hole. Can’t we come up with a better way to help good development projects take hold in Rochester? And I do still think this is a good project, even with all the stupid parking right in the middle of the “town square.”

What do you think?

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This entry was posted on Sunday, October 21st, 2012 at 12:39 pm and is filed under Rochester News, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

4 Responses to “What the Hell is a PILOT and Why Does I-Square Need One to Take Off?”

  1. Barbra Ann says:

    I believe that the issue of deferral of property taxes will become increasingly important as the pressure of ‘enlightened’ development comes up against the inordinately high taxes in Irondequoit [not to mention every other school district and town in the county]. Both sides are fighting for the right reason – schools, towns, county need to back off and let intelligent development happen. The ‘darling’ factor in West Irondequoit, the colonials and capes, are going to be ‘out-dated’ all too soon as the boomers exit the planet and the next generation comes in. Today’s boomers want community ~ intelligent and fun living environments. I would guess that Gen X and the Millennials are looking for something new and different, too.

  2. jimmy says:

    Go Mike and Wendy!

  3. Matt says:

    So I think there are two separate issues at hand here.

    First is the quality of the development. As nice as it is, it does have too much parking. Additionally, I would love to see the Nolans work with the town to bring some non-automotive infrastructure along with the development. Bike lanes are incredibly inexpensive to paint, and yet yield excellent results for safety and usage. I would love to see bike lane added to Titus Ave and Cooper Rd as part of this, then some parking could go instead to bikes. That’s the kind of clientele iSquare is, presumably, looking to attract.

    The other issue is a control crazy town that just won’t give it up. There’s no good reason not to just grant a 25 PILOT. The Town is just terrified this might be successful and they might get yelled at for not milking the Nolans for every penny. There is no reason that the PILOT can’t be back loaded nicely, and then renegotiated later if it’s not working. If the Nolans are fighting that, well, that’s a different issue. If the town won’t do it, then I hope the Nolan’s can be persuaded to invest their money somewhere else in the region, as nearly everywhere has these kinds of opportunities if they’re not being squashed by local government.

  4. Hmmmm…okay, I’ve watched the video and am still not convinced. He does a very nice job of documenting the numbers…to a point, but makes sure to inflate costs/taxes/etc when it suits him and deflating when it doesnt’t. I’m not sure, for example, why in the CVS example the CVS property has a higher assessment, but lower taxes without a PILOT.

    I guess I’m just going to need to see more numbers, such as calculations based on projections of assessments, taxes, inflation, etc. I realize this is asking to predict the future, but then isn’t that what they’re doing, too?


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