Larson questions IDA director at committee meeting
MAYVILLE – After more than a decade away from the Chautauqua County Legislature, Fred Larson has returned and is already tackling some of his concerns with one agency in particular.
Larson, a Jamestown Democrat who previously served from 1985-93, earlier this month was appointed to the Planning and Economic Development Committee, which held its first regular meeting Wednesday night.
Bill Daly, director of the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency, presented new members of the committee (Janet Keefe, D-Fredonia; Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point; Terry Niebel, R-Dunkirk) with the agency’s main objectives and how the County Legislature and agency work together, adding that County Executive Vince Horrigan will nominate legislative members to sit on the agency’s board.
“The powers of the IDA are wide,” Daly said, going on to explain past and future projects. “We are a creature of Chautauqua County and the State Port Authority.”
Daly said New York state imposes “hoops to jump through” as far as tax exemption policies. Also, he stated that loyalty of appointed members to the board lies first with the agency, and then to the legislature, which new legislator Terry Niebel, R-Dunkirk, questioned.
Larson, who sat at the other end of the table, probed Daly about a list of questions he had previously presented and provided copies of Daly’s responses along with a graph of the agency’s available properties and values.
“Some of these are worthy of discussion,” Larson said of his questionnaire. “I think there’s misleading information. I think, on this committee, we need to have an idea of what land is available.”
Larson then asked Daly whether or not a site spanning 10 acres would be available if a large company wanted to build in Chautauqua County.
“Could we find ten acres of green space?” Daly asked. “You bet.”
“I can almost guarantee it wouldn’t have had a SEQR on it,” Larson responded.
A SEQR review is required by New York state in order for building projects to take place and assesses environmental impacts on surrounding areas.
“If a company says, ‘We want to build,’ and we don’t have shovel-ready sites, nothing is going to get constructed in this calendar year,” Larson said. “Maybe for next month, we could get accurate information.”
Chairman of the committee George Borrello, R-Irving, then interjected.
“I’m a little torn,” he said. “I do believe this committee should be ready to act, but I think it’s the responsibility of the Industrial Development Agency as a state agency.”
Larson’s last question involved StartUp NY, an initiative enacted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo allowing businesses to operate tax-free for 10 years in cooperation with SUNY campuses and other community colleges.
“I’m convinced StartUp NY is critical,” Larson said of the initiative, asking Daly how involved he will be in its implementation and further stating Chautauqua County has 6,000 fewer people employed than seven years ago.
“That’s the biggest lie that’s ever been told, and that’s a shame,” Daly said of the number.
Larson then said he hopes the other four members of the committee will want to know who is in charge of the initiative.
“This is the governor’s proposal through SUNY, and until the colleges draft their plan they’re working at a decent pace then it will be finalized,” Daly said. “So, I guess a lot of my time.”
In other matters, a resolution was tabled to discuss monitoring and annually reporting progress of implementing phosphorus management in Chautauqua Lake.
It was agreed that further discussion will take place at next month’s meeting in Mayville about both matters.