Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Tale of Two Extended-Stay Hotels...

For some time I have been curious as to why Fees In Lieu of Mitigation (FILM) agreements no longer come before the town board for their approval. Up until the time the Reed administration sought an opinion on FILM from a Glen Falls attorney, the contracts always came before the board.

Town Law specifically says that all contracts on behalf of the town have to be approved by the town board. So is it a matter of Tyksinski doing whatever the Hell he wants or is it because collecting fees in lieu of mitigation are only legal in New Hartford NY because no developer has ever filed a lawsuit against the town so they are best kept hidden?

At any rate, I decided to FOIL the contracts from some of the latest developments in New Hartford; Townplace Suites off of 840; Homewood Suites in the infamous business park; and Stewart’s Shop on Middlesettlement Road.

That’s when I noticed it…a glaring difference between the contracts signed by the two hotels. It would appear that New Hartford really doesn’t have a fair method of determining what needs to be mitigated or how much it will cost, but rather Tyksinski is in essence playing favorites or perhaps something worse.

Take for instance the Townplace Suites off Route 840 built by New Hartford Lodging out of Corning, NY.

Here is the description according to town Planning Board agenda dated September 2014:
Townplace Suites Preliminary Site Plan Review of a proposed hotel on Middle Settlement Road, New Hartford, New York. Tax Map #316.016­6­64.2; Zoning: C1 General Commercial. Proposed 98 units on Middle Settlement Road at NYS Route 840 West ramp.

Then, there is the proposal put forth to the Planning Board in May 2015 by Larry Adler:
Homewood Suites Mr. Larry Adler/New Hartford Office Group: Preliminary Site Plan Review for a proposed 4­story, 85 room hotel and a restaurant of approximately 3000 square feet on Woods Park Drive, New Hartford, New York. Tax Map #328.000­3­7.1; Lot Size: Approximately 4 Acres. Zoning: C1 General Commercial.

Notice, both are 4 story buildings; one for 98 units and the other for 85 units (plus Mr. Adler's proposal also includes a restaurant on a separate parcel); both are located almost across from each other off of Rte. 840; and both are for extended-stay hotels.

I put together a spreadsheet of the FILM monies collected from each of the developers according to the FILM contracts each signed:

(Click here for a larger pdf view!)

It is quite easy to see that Mr. Adler paid far less for mitigation (...of something apparently yet to be determined) than the Townplace Suites across the way.

How does the town justify charging mitigation fees without identifying the possible problem that might need mitigating? Also, it is interesting to note the difference in fees for the two (2) hotels given proximity and the similarities of the two projects.

Mr. Adler's contract notes that, in addition to the $13,123.20 of fees collected, credit has been given to Mr. Adler because he has agreed to provide lighting along the entry/exit to Woods Park Drive from Rte. 840. Whoopie Doo!

No indication of how many light; when (a year later there is no sign of any lighting being installed); who is going to pay to keep the lights on (taxpayers?); or for that matter if they will even be lit. Just that he is going to place an undetermined number of lights along the road into his project therefore, he has been given credit and does not need to pay the customary fees other developers have to pay.

Problem is, other than a cut-through to Seneca Turnpike, Woods Park Drive only leads directly to his business park! More importantly, it is also a town-owned road built with taxpayer dollars.

Town Law Section 64 clearly states that the "management, custody and control of all town lands, buildings and property of the town" is placed squarely in the hands of the town board. Without town board action, Mr. Adler doesn’t have any business placing lights on Woods Park Drive without the issue coming before the town board.

Further what is he mitigating? Seriously…making it easier to drive to his own business park? Really? Actually, since when did lighting become a mitigating factor identified in the GEIS as requiring the payment of mitigation fees?

Here is something else that I find interesting. Tyksinski's signature on Mr Adler’s agreement was notarized by the town attorney, Attorney Cully. The other two agreements that I FOILed were signed by the town clerk and the village clerk. Why is the town attorney involved in agreements that clearly should have been presented for town board approval? Is there some kind of backroom deal going on here?

According to Town Law, these three (3) contracts and any other FILM contracts that have been signed during Tyksinski's reign are null and void.

Here are pdfs of the two (2) hotel FILM contracts I received through FOIL.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

“We’re on just as legal a standing as you were 20 years ago…”

So says Supervisor Tyksinski during the November 9, 2016 meeting in response to Councilman Woodland’s questions regarding the use of sewer district funds to pay non-related expenses.

Funny, about twenty (20) years ago, correct me if I'm wrong Supervisor, but wasn't that about the time period when you were the “official” town comptroller; and, don't you hold the distinction of being the last "official" town comptroller after you were relieved of duty?  I believe that the town comptroller position was abolished by the town board in January 2002? Care to expound on the particulars of that situation, sir?

(I just love having searchable town board minutes on my computer going waaaayyyy back; they tend to come in handy quite frequently of late!)

According to Tyksinski at the November 9th town board meeting, everything is just fine as long as they have a “consistent plan” to pay back the district.

Dan Dreimiller, a CPA just like the town supervisor, and also the town’s part time Finance Officer appointed by Tyksinski, openly admitted to $750,000 of sewer district funds that have been consistently used to pay various expenses having nothing to do with sewers.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step, Dan! However, the 2015 financial statements tell an entirely different story and I am fairly confident that the 2016 financials will tell an even more dire town story.

So the plan, according to the newly adopted town board resolution, is to pay back $75,000 a year over the next 10 years. Tyksinki said they could pay it back sooner if the town board so desires, but he didn't advise paying the district back all in one dose. My guess is because there is no money!

Plus interest, Supervisor...don't forget the interest owed according to General Municipal Law.

I have an idea, Supervisor, if the "borrowing" has been going on for over twenty (20) years as you state, in lieu of interest owed the district, why not relieve the district of having to pay sewer taxes for the next twenty years!

Tyksinski said the first $75,000 payment should be in the first quarter of 2017 somewhere in the February-March time period when property and sales tax money starts coming in.

This should be interesting...more robbing Peter to pay Paul.

But, Supervisor, if I am not mistaken, the 2017 property and sales tax revenue streams were already accounted for to cover expenses in the 2017 budget. No Sewer District Repayment expense line has been included in the 2017 adopted budget so I believe that the transfer will need to be done by another town board resolution during the first quarter of 2017 stating what fund(s) will be used to pay back the sewer district.

I do believe that, since the town doesn't have an "official" town comptroller position, Town Law mandates that transfers have to be done by board resolution in open session, right Supervisor?

I will be sure to let everyone know when that budget transfer takes place. Hey, by the way, I still have that bridge for sale!

But, Town of New Hartford taxpayers, there is no tax increase in the 2017 town budget!


Well, not for 2017 anyway!!! Wait for it...wait for it!!

Here's the portion of the meeting regarding repayment of sewer district monies: