Was the developer playing hardball or just emphasizing reality?
In the end, after a lengthy inquisition of the development groups's managing partner, the Town Council on Tuesday approved a seven-year tax abatement for an extended stay hotel on Kelly Road.
An amendment for a four-year abatement schedule (five if one counts a year at zero) proposed by council member Michael Winkler was not endorsed.
The plan for a Candlewood Suites occupies 355, 359 and 361 Kelly Road, land in-between the Free Spirit Cafe and the Tri-City Plaza shopping center.
The abatement plan was reviewed by the Economic Development Commission last week and was recommended to the council. Economic Development Coordinator Shaun Gately is also endorsing the abatement schedule.
The abatement covers the increase in taxes for the property.
Mayor George Apel said the administration is in favor of the abatement as long as ground is broken by Oct. 16, 2014 and the project is completed by Oct. 16, 2017. The abatement "is limited to a national chain extended stay hotel," Apel said in the memo.
Victor Antico, the managing partner of the development group, True Hospitality Group LLC, said things could go much quicker than that.
Here are the basics of the project:
• Gately said the hotel would include 70 rooms and measure 31,000 square feet.
• The project has an estimated total cost of $7 million and "out
of that, $6.4 million would be in improvement costs," Gately said.
• Gately said a preliminary estimate has the property appraisal increasing by $3,150,000, which results in an assessment increase of $2,205,000.
• Based on the current tax rate of 33.63 mills, the unabated tax implications would result in an estimated increase of $74,154 in taxes on the property per year.
• The hotel would have 25 permanent employees and 50 construction workers would be hired while the hotel is being built, Gately said.
• The project is for the Candlewood Suites brand, a subsidiary of Holiday Inn.
• Antico is from the Holiday Inn Express, across the street. Deb Javit from Tri City Plaza LLC is also involved with the project, Gately said.
• The developers have received conditional approval from the Small Business Administrations for a loan to finance the construction.
Winkler was convinced that the group was already committed to the land on Kelly Road, a contention Antico disagreed with, even though he said the hotel could be built in less than a year. He said he wanted to get the burden "off the taxpayers' backs as soon as possible."
Antico said he is also considering a parcel in Storrs and that officials there are also considering an abatement.
When asked by council member John Kopec if the abatement were a deal-breaker, Antico said it was. He said he would walk away from Vernon if the break were not granted.
"If I do not get the abatement, I'm going to leave," he said. He also said any break in the current lending climate is key.
Council members asked him if the Vernon market could sustain another hotel. Antico said he turns away corporate groups routinely because they want rooms with kitchen facilities and they want them in Vernon.
"I see a niche here," he said, "Because I an turning people away."
The council eventually voted unanimously to grant the abatement.
Here are the particulars of the abatement on the $74,154 in increased tax value.
• A 100 percent reduction for the first year.
• A 75 percent reduction for the second and third years.
• A 50 percent reduction for the fourth and fifth years.
• A 25 percent reduction years 6 and 7.
The property returns to the full assessment for the eighth year and beyond.
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