Slim turnout at city public hearing

It was a small turnout Tuesday at a public hearing in Dunkirk’s City Hall.

The hearing was for public comment on the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency’s proposal to provide potential exemptions or partial exemptions from sales and use taxes, mortgage recording taxes and real property taxes, but not including special assessments and ad valorem levies for the proposed Chadwick Bay Marina facility.

Developer Jeff Gambino requested the CCIDA’s help on the project, which he described in October as a 17,000-square-foot building with a nearly $1 million price tag. Gambino told Common Council at that time the opening would not occur until spring 2015 at the earliest.

CCIDA Project Manager Kristine Morabito conducted the hearing, with Jonathan Taber from the law firm of Phillips & Lytle also present for the CCIDA.

Mayor Anthony J. Dolce, Director of Planning and Development Steve Neratko, City Attorney Ron Szot and Building and Zoning Officer Alan Zurawski were also present.

Dolce was the only speaker.

“The city is excited about the potential of this project and we look forward to seeing it completed in a timely and professional manner,” he stated.

After the hearing, Dolce said the city’s Planning Board approved the project last fall.

“We just need stamped architectural plans and then the zoning office can issue the building permits,” he added.

Gambino was unaable to attend the hearing but was reached later for comment on the project’s progress.

“It’s just another step toward moving the project forward. Basically, what I’m attempting to do there is just get some abatements. I’m not asking for any loans, I’m not asking for any grants, I’m not asking for any assistance from the city of Dunkirk,” he stated. “The only thing I’m asking for is the very basic thing that most developers ask for, and that is sales tax abatement on the materials that will be purchased to build the building, and a property tax abatement. I will still continue paying the roughly $30,000 a year in property taxes I already pay, the only thing I’m asking the IDA to do is to give me an abatement on any increases in any taxes. My taxes are high enough.

“I want to make sure that’s crystal clear, my taxes are high enough. I don’t want to pay more because I’m trying to develop the waterfront and spur development and tourism down there. I think those are very realisistic and a fair thing to ask for. I feel confident that hopefully, we’ll get those things done and this is just part of that process.”

Gambino pointed out the abatements would allow him time to build up the new business once the facility is complete. He added an initial full tax assessment would make the project “not feasible.”

Gambino did say there may be an issue with soil compaction at the site of the proposed building.

“There seems to be a little bit of a concern as far as the fill that was used back when they filled that whole property in years back,” he explained. “We’ll have to step it up a little bit and I’m in the process now of hiring a firm to do some soil compaction tests in the area that the new building will be built. I hope to have those results back in probably 30 days. Then based on those, as long as we don’t have to dig down 20 feet and replace all the gravel, we should be good to go.

“The ideal situation would be that we get those soil compaction tests back and they come back good roughly at the same time the IDA gives their final approval on the abatements I’m asking for. If both of those things come in the way they should, and I fully expect them to, we should be able to start tearing down the building and breaking ground in June of this year. We’ll work on the project through the summer and then through the winter and we’ll get it done when we get it done.”

Gambino confirmed that Spring 2015 is still the goal for opening the new facility. He added the current building will be demolished as soon as the weather breaks, while the boating side of the marina will operate as usual this year.

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