July 30--LOCKPORT -- The Niagara County Legislature will hold a public hearing in September on a property tax exemption for energy-efficient buildings.
The proposal from Legislator Michael A. Hill, R-Hartland, was passed by the Legislature's Administration Committee Tuesday night. The full Legislature is to vote next week on holding a hearing on the idea Sept. 16.
Hill said the tax break would apply to buildings, both residential and commercial, that are "green" enough to win certification under the national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program.
If it becomes law, the exemption would apply only to buildings constructed or rehabilitated after the law is passed. Existing buildings would not be eligible, county Real Property Services Director John L. Shoemaker said.
State law authorizes localities to pass the exemption, which includes a 100 percent tax exemption for the first three years for a building that meets "silver" LEED certification standards. Such a building would receive four more years of discounted taxes on a sliding scale before becoming fully taxable.
Hill said his interest in the issue was triggered by a constituent who wants to build a LEED-certified home in the Rapids area of the Town of Lockport and was aware of the exemption allowed by state law.
Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, didn't vote against the resolution but wasn't happy with it.
"Any tax reduction means the other taxpayers have to make that up," Virtuoso said. "Why should the county subsidize this? Something like this should come from the Power Authority or the State of New York."
"This isn't subsidizing. I call this incentivizing," Hill replied. "There's nothing to start with. We're incentivizing people to build these types of buildings."
In another matter Tuesday, the Administration Committee approved the allocation of 400 kilowatts of discount electricity for Lockport's new Cornerstone Arena.
The grant will save the new twin-rink ice complex, scheduled to open in September, a substantial but undetermined amount on its electric bill, said Samuel M. Ferraro, county economic development commissioner.
Lockport Ice Arena and Sports Center, the not-for-profit entity building the $14 million complex, originally asked for 668 kilowatts, but the county couldn't come up with that much.
Most of the 400 kilowatts came from the Town of Lockport Industrial Development Agency, which was allocated 250 kilowatts by the county's Empower Niagara program in 2011, but never used it for any project. In April, the town decided to relinquish the power to make it available to the ice rink.
The county came up with 150 kilowatts for the arena from its own allocation.
The arena group will pay the county $39,700 a year for the electricity. The rink is to create six full-time and 15 part-time jobs, according to its application.
The committee also approved a 100-kilowatt Empower Niagara allocation to Russell Farms of Newfane, to help with a $3.32 million plan to erect a new 36,400-square-foot controlled-atmosphere apple storage facility on Transit Road in Newfane.
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