Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Opinion

April 26, 2011

OUR VIEW: Lockport taxpayers lose again

We find it highly inappropriate that the City of Lockport — via its development corporation — is again punishing taxpayers for renovations to 57 Canal St.

Taxpayers initially footed the bill to refurbish the buildings in this canalside corridor, and now the city is taking another helping of your tax dollars to further tailor a building for its new tenant.

What was the point of attracting private enterprise if taxpayers have a seemingly never-ending obligation to prop up Canal Street development.

Enough already.

The new era of tax breaks began Wednesday, when the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency accepted an application of assistance from the Greater Lockport Development Corp. for renovations to 57 Canal St.

The building is owned by the city and leased to GLDC — the city’s financial arm — which applied for, and this week was accepted for, a five-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement.

The building was tax-exempt while the city redeveloped it. But the city would be subject to taxes, now that high-tech manufacturer Trek Inc. of Medina leases and occupies the first two floors. Trek has promised 20-some jobs for Lockport, positions that are moving from Medina to this city.

The granting of the PILOT means the developed portion of the site is tax-exempt once again.

The IDA touts this as the first-ever application through the Niagara County Opportunity Zone Program.

The Opportunity Zone program is designed to provide financial incentives  in the form of tax abatements to commercial, retail and tourism-based businesses to encourage reinvestment to rebuild urban centers in Niagara County.

Worthy goal.

Wrong recipient.

How does the city or its GLDC qualify as a commercial, retail or tourism-based business?

Simple answer: It doesn’t.

We’re all for developing Canal Street, a corridor that has languished for years, into a district with a lively combination of retail business, office space and tourist attractions.

Such a combination can generate private sector jobs and bring traffic to the downtown business district. A rising tide lifts all boats, as they say — especially along the canal.

What we don’t like is municipalities — and their agencies — double-dipping into taxpayers’ pockets.

The goal is a private sector that generates new jobs and economic growth that alleviates the burden on residential taxpayers.

What we have here, instead, is taxpayers bankrolling yet another chapter in a project they already fully funded.

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