GREENPORT–In a unanimous vote Tuesday, April 13, the Columbia County Industrial Development Agency denied a request by Widewaters Group, the developer of the Greenport Commons plaza on Route 9, for a tax reduction agreement aimed at attracting a Kohl’s department store to the site.
“The denial of the project for tax incentive was based on the IDA policy, adopted a couple of years ago, that said they would not provide IDA financing to retail projects unless they provide goods and services not already available in the community,” said IDA member Ken Flood, the county planning director and executive director of Columbia Hudson Partnership. “Kohl’s and/or Widewaters would not commit to a permanent minimum number of jobs in exchange for the tax breaks,” said Mr. Flood.
The IDA held a public hearing late last month on the proposed agreement, called a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT. Most of the people who spoke at that session, as well as the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, opposed the plan.
“We have not supported the PILOT,” said David Colby, president of the chamber. He said the chamber’s position is that the IDA “did the right thing. It was clearly the fair thing to do, and we agree with their decision. We hope that Kohl’s will continue to move forward, and we hope they are able to locate in the plaza…. We’re not against the free market system, but we don’t think they should be subsidized and get an advantage over local business.”
IDA member Bruce Bohnsack said that “after the public hearing, after the board reviewed all the comments from the public and Widewaters, we determined that it didn’t meet the letter of our retail policy.” Mr. Bohnsack said that the department store would not offer “unique products, not available elsewhere in the county. The board was in agreement.”
Kohl’s has applied for the permit it will need from the Town of Greenport to begin building , but it was not clear at mid-week whether the company will proceed with its plans.