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Developer set to walk away from $53M Pittsford project after nay vote from COMIDA

By: Kevin Oklobzija//May 17, 2023

Developer set to walk away from $53M Pittsford project after nay vote from COMIDA

By: Kevin Oklobzija//May 17, 2023

Artist’s rendering of proposed Westbrook Commons. (Provided)

Mark IV Enterprises said it will pull the plug on an oft-delayed $53 million upscale residential project in the village of Pittsford after the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA) on Tuesday afternoon denied $7.8 million in tax incentives.

Moments after the board voted 4-3 against sales- and use-tax exemptions, a mortgage recording tax exemption and a partial real property tax abatement, developers Chris and Steve DiMarzo said the denial was a death knell for Westport Crossing.

“I can tell you in no uncertain circumstances, we will not be building this project,” Steve DiMarzo, managing partner of Mark IV, told the board.

Mark IV Enterprises said the incentive package was necessary in order to make the financing arrangements feasible for the 156-unit community along the Erie Canal, just off Monroe Avenue.

Westport Commons was to have been a seven-building community built on seven acres of remediated brownfield land, with rent ranging from $1,300 for a studio apartment to $3,200 for a three-bedroom unit. Approximately 10 percent of the apartments would have been classified affordable for residents earning at or below 60 percent of the area median income.

Initial planning for the project began 16 years ago, and after 180 public hearings, 13 lawsuits by opponents in the village and $5.2 million in brownfield remediation, Mark IV finally had all regulatory approvals and was ready to begin construction.

But in exchange for investing their own money (minus between 10 percent and 30 percent tax in remediation credits from the state) to clean up the canal-side property of oil contamination, Mark IV believed it qualified for tax incentives from COMIDA.

“We cleaned up a brownfield site that was dumping contaminated petroleum into the Erie Canal, we volunteered,” Steve DiMarzo said told the board. “Is that not a public benefit?”

COMIDA board members Joseph Alloco, Lisa Bolzner, Rhett King and Troy Milne voted against. Ann Burr, Norm Jones and Jay Popli were in favor.

“It’s very short-sighted to give it a no vote,” Steve DiMarzo told the board.

The vote came five days after a public hearing in Pittsford, during which village trustees Lisa Cove and David Marshall expressed opposition, believing public dollars would be better spent elsewhere.

The village board of trustees sent a letter of support for Westport Commons to COMIDA earlier this spring. However, in recent weeks, the board rescinded its support based on the wishes of the majority of residents, Cove said at the public hearing.

COMIDA Executive Director Ana Liss, a non-voting committee member, told the board before Tuesday’s vote that COMIDA was not required to adhere to local board preferences.

Board members did not provide Mark IV executives with a reason for their denial.

At least twice since September of 2018, Mark IV had issued news releases about the project finally being allowed to move toward construction after either victories in the courtroom or approvals from the village.

If built, Westport Commons would created the equivalent of 24 full-time jobs, 17 at the open-t0-the-public restaurant, and seven for the residential properties. There also would have been $19.45 million allotted to construction labor.

The project also includes public boat docks, public sidewalks along the canal and public restrooms, and the devel0per committed to paying $750,000 for a landscaped median as a means of traffic calming on Monroe Avenue as well as $520,000 to rebuild a water main on an adjacent street.

The developer anticipated that the apartments would have been popular with young professionals, empty-nesters and seniors and that the project, if built, “will be a huge economic multiplier.”

Mark IV currently is paying $12,000 a year in property taxes on the vacant land. When completed, the tax bill would be over $1 million, Chris DiMarzo said.

The DiMarzos declined to comment following Tuesday’s COMIDA meeting.

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