Developer says I-Square is 'on hold' and land will be graded and seeded

Nov 6, 2012

WHERE IT STANDS:

The past

Irondequoit native, businessman and developer Mike Nolan, owner of Spex Precision Machine in Rochester, announced, in summer 2011, that he and his wife Wendy would be using their own money to build a town center called I-Square, in the Cooper Road and Titus Avenue area. They envision that the project will include seven newly constructed two- and three-story buildings, wide sidewalks; four new, well-lit parking lots; an outdoor performing arts stage with seating for 400, an art gallery, business center, shops, restaurants and more.

Mike Nolan says that he first proposed a PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, agreement last November. He said he is seeking a 25-year PILOT to help to make the project, for which he will be putting in an extension of Cooper Road along with related upgrades, at his own expense, a reality — and affordable.

The present

Last month, after lengthy discussion at one meeting and a special meeting called for a week later, the Irondequoit Town Board approved a 10-year PILOT.

"It (that approval) took all the wind out of my sails," Nolan said late last week. He added that the project is "on hold ... pending our decision on how to proceed."

He said the town's 10-year plan "can't work for us ... we really need the full 25 years."

Nolan did say he is looking for "other ways to proceed" or altering the development, but that he hopes that someday, the town board will realize "there is benefit in our PILOT proposal and accepts it."

The Nolans and supporters did leave a town board meeting Oct. 16, right after the public input portion of the meeting ended, due to the start of a public hearing.

At the end of the meeting, Supervisor Mary Joyce D'Aurizio did read some prepared remarks that she said would explain the town's position.

While she applauds the Nolans' efforts and plan, D'Aurizio said, "the town has only a few and limited sources of revenue," with the main source of funding being property taxes. She said the 10-year PILOT the board approved is in line with nearly all such agreements across the state, and that the town "must be careful about the amount of commercial property it locks up in PILOT agreements."

D'Aurizio added that she thinks the Nolans' choice not to complete the project without a 25-year agreement "is a false choice," and proposed finding a "viable middle ground."

Mike Nolan said that he feels the town board misled him, since he has already gone to considerable expense to prepare for the project.

Since the board's passage of the 10-year PILOT, he invited a group of 11 residents (not friends) to be part of a mock "town board" meeting and look at the facts.

"They asked a lot of great questions," he said, and studied the figures.

Brian Charles, one of those 11, said he'd now like to meet and learn about the town's "side" of the issue.

The future

In the short term, Mike Nolan said he will grade and seed the I-Square land where buildings once stood, and make sure the land is mowed.

"And I will pay less in (property) taxes, so the town will lose revenue," Nolan said, referring to the fact there are no longer buildings on the property.

"At this point," he added, "I have no plans to build anything there."

Nolan also pledged, "the next offer will not be nearly as generous ... I will start from the land value and work up."

"All I ever wanted to do was make Irondequoit a better place," Nolan said. "I can't fix the town's budget problems."

He said there's "no room for compromise."

He is also making all of his facts and figures public, Nolan said, "to give everyone (the information) ... to see what the town passed on."

Linda Quinlan
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