Watertown Considers Dramatic Tax Break

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It could mean a boom in business in Watertown.

That's if a new tax-exemption program called 485-A of the state's Real Property law is enacted by city council.

Basically it would give developers of mixed-use projects that have both businesses and homes a 100 percent tax break for the first eight years.

Then there's a partial exemption that gets smaller over the next four years.

City Councilwoman Roxanne Burns says that would be an incentive for developers to build in the city.

"It would be an opportunity for someone to look at a building - perhaps they were looking at it in a different direction - but when they know the exemption is out there for mixed-use, they would reconsider their development plans," she said.

Currently, developers apply for what's called a PILOT program - or payment in lieu of taxes.

PILOTs have to go through the city and its two other taxing jurisdictions, the school district and Jefferson County.

With the new program - all developers would only apply to the city.

"Once the law is passed, we won't ever deal with a project-specific application," said Robert Hagemann, county administrator.

So why is the program being considered now?

Well, with a number of city projects on the horizon, including the Woolworth Building renovation, it could bring more development downtown.

"As these things start to become more of a reality, that's when the council is going to have to have much more serious discussions," said Burns.

If city council does enact the tax-exemption, it could go into effect in the next few months.

Friday, October 31, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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