Ulster IDA tax-exempt policy questioned

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Street view rendering of project (in background) from Visual Impact document

KINGSTON – Members of the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency Tuesday evening defended their position of changing their tax-exempt status for housing policy in January, which coincidently happened within the same time frame as the Kingstonian Project’s deviated from the PILOT.

The Kingstonian project is a mixed-use, affordable, market-rate, and retail property with a parking garage, currently proposed for the City of Kingston.

Representatives from the IDA said they identified an issue with their housing policy and tax-exempt status in about November of 2020, with changes already made in August of that year and was changed in January as part of their regular housekeeping. However, Ulster County Legislators Abe Uchitelle and Lynn Archer said the timing was suspicious and they believe it has undermined public trust in the agency.

“I get if you find a mistake down the road, but the timing of this along with the decision on the Kingstonian is really somewhat suspect and I’m saying this recognizing all your hard work and for this one thing because of the size and scope of this project, it has created major credibility issues about the process and how things played out,” said Archer.

IDA counsel Joe Scott said the agency fixes discrepancies as they find them and that alone shows the policies of the agency are evaluated regularly and diligently. He said it is not uncommon for other IDAs to have tax-exempt status for housing developments and if there is an avenue for other developments to get tax-exempt status, it should be included to housing.

“It makes sense from a logic and consistency standpoint if you’re going to defer to the locals on uniform tax exemption matters and you’re going to defer to the locals for housing policy matters, if there’s an out, if you will, or exception in the uniform tax exemption policy, you would think that there’d be a similar provision in the housing policy and the fact that it wasn’t there in the first place was frankly not explainable,” said Scott. 

The IDA maintains it conducted the cost-benefit analysis for the Kingstonian as it would have for any other project and the language of the housing policy and uniform tax exemption policy are virtually the same.