Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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April 18, 2013

Auto dealer's tax relief bid nixed

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency board of directors on Wednesday rejected Ki-Po Automotive’s request for tax breaks to underwrite its acquisition of a Chevrolet dealership facility in Ransomville.

On a 4-2 vote, the board denied Ki-Po’s application for a 10-year Commercial Payment in Lieu of Taxes compact conveying sales and mortgage recording tax exemptions, and 10 years of reduced property tax, on the existing showroom and a proposed addition at 2534 Youngstown-Lockport Road. The IDA board is composed of nine directors, and PILOTs are only granted on a minimum of five votes in favor. Three directors were absent from the Wednesday morning meeting.

Ki-Po made its request shortly before enactment of the 2013-2014 New York State budget, which restored an old prohibition on IDAs granting tax breaks on retail development projects.

Commercial development is considered to be retail in nature when one-third or more of the project is dedicated to walk-in business. Exceptions to the ban on tax relief are allowed for tourism destinations including hotels and malls, projects located in “highly distressed” areas and projects that make available “unique” goods and services available in the host municipality.

NCIDA could justify tax relief for Ki-Po on the basis that a Chevy dealership is unique and preserves jobs in the hamlet of Ransomville, agency attorney Mark Gabriele advised.

But the board trustees whose “no” votes sunk the application, Stephen F. Brady and Michael W. McNally, said they couldn’t stand by that statement.

“It’s retail. I just didn’t feel comfortable” approving tax breaks, McNally said.

Brady worried the board would set a precedent for using the unique services exception to get around the retail ban. “There’s a lot of communities in Niagara County that don’t have a car dealership,” he said.

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