That unusually high $5.1 million revenue projection from the building department that the Town of Greenburgh is counting on to stay within the New York State property tax cap next year – which is more than double this year’s $1.8 million projection — assumes that town officials will approve Shelbourne’s 80-unit assisted living facility in Edgemont and a $100 million “world headquarters” for biotechnology company Regeneron in northern Greenburgh, the town comptroller said today.
Town comptroller Bart Talamini, who last week announced his resignation, effective January 1, 2016, today released a spreadsheet purporting to show how the $5.1 million estimate in Town Supervisor Paul Feiner’s proposed budget for 2016 was arrived at.
The spreadsheet’s release followed a response to a Freedom of Information request last week for such data, made public by the ECC last night, in which the building inspector said the information supporting his budget revenue projection was “not statistical or factual.”
However, the information released today is likely to raise more questions than it answers. It also puts the Town Board in the unusual position, in the case of Shelbourne, of approving a budget based on money it expects to receive in building department revenue from a huge project that, at least in theory, might not be approved at all because of zoning problems.
Shelbourne is projected to contribute $204,000 to the building inspector’s revenue for 2016. Because every $500,000 in revenue equals a percentage point in taxes, eliminating the Shelbourne revenue would result in taxes increasing 0.4%, which might be enough to exceed the tax cap.
The ECC and other civic groups are appealing the building inspector’s ruling this summer that Shelbourne needs no zoning code variances to build its project. The zoning code requires that assisted living facilities in residential neighborhoods must be on a minimum four acre site and, to make sure that medical emergency responders can service the facility quickly, they must be located within 200 feet of a state or county right-of-way, not including parkways and interstates.
Here, the Shelbourne project is on less than four acres and the nearest state or county right-of-way is Central Avenue, which is nearly a mile away. The building inspector ruled that no variances are required because, in his opinion, the Town Board itself can dispense with the four-acre requirement and because the site is within 200 feet of certain property acquired by the state when Underhill Road was being relocated to accommodate the construction of the nearly Sprain Brook Parkway.
The ECC and civic groups maintain that the building inspector is wrong on both counts, but if the Town Board votes later this month to approve a budget that assumes the project will be built in any event, it may not matter whether the ECC is legally correct in its interpretation of the zoning code – the Town will grant Shelbourne whatever approvals it needs no matter what the law may require.
If the building inspector’s budget projection remains intact when the town board votes to approve the budget later this month, today’s disclosure also makes a mockery of Town Supervisor Paul Feiner’s repeated insistence that the Town Board will have an open mind on the issue.
The $5.1 million estimate also includes $2,520,000 in revenues for “Regeneron’s World Headquarters.” This number assumes that Regeneron is planning to get approval in 2016 to build a $100 million facility in Greenburgh. The only hitch is that no such building appears to have been proposed – at least not yet.
While Regeneron has proposed building a $100 million office and laboratory facility, that 300,000 square foot building is supposed to be located not in Greenburgh, but in the neighboring Town of Mt. Pleasant. All that’s been proposed thus far by Regeneron for Greenburgh far is a much smaller 129,000 square foot laboratory and a parking structure, neither of which are expected to cost anywhere near as much. However, it’s possible that the building inspector may be aware of such a proposal even if the public is not.
Greenburgh’s building department charges $100 for a building permit plus $18 for every $1,000 of estimated construction costs. An electrical permit costs $15 for every $1,000 of estimated construction costs for electrical work and another $15 for every $1,000 of HVAC. Thus, for example, a home that would cost $1 million to build would probably generate revenue of about $25,000. To get to a $2.5 million revenue figure, the building would have to cost around $100 million.
The balance of the projection consist of an estimated $1.3 million in fees for residential decks and home additions, and $1,080,000 for the Westchester Square Shopping Center on Central Avenue in Hartsdale (at Trader Joe’s), where the Town Board has just approved a one-building addition. It is not clear whether the revenue projected is for the original proposal, which was rejected, or the scaled down proposal, which was approved.
The Town may also be facing other problems with its budget. Also on the revenue side, the Hebrew Home for the Aged, which operates a nursing home and assisted living facility on Knollwood Road, was recently sold. That facility, which is tax exempt, has for years been voluntarily paying a PILOT – which is a “payment in lieu of taxes.” But the Town has reportedly been told that the new owners do not intend to pay the PILOT. It is not yet known how much money would be affected if the PILOT is not paid.
Like the Hebrew Home facility, other assisted living facilities in Town, including Westchester Meadows on Grasslands Road, are tax-exempt. Brightview is not tax-exempt and Shelbourne’s proposed facility is also not tax exempt. Neither facility will accept residents on Medicaid.
On the operating expense side of the equation, the town board heard today from Police Chief Chris McNerney, who had a long list of items he wanted added to police budget for next year. In addition, he warned that continued approval of assisted living facilities will warrant hiring more EMT personnel because of the additional drain these facilities will have on the Town’s current roster of medically trained personnel.
The fear is that Brightview, which is not yet fully occupied, will strain the Town’s existing EMT staff, and the approval of other facilities, such as Shelbourne, will create even more strain. Town officials did not consider these impacts when it approved Brightview and certainly have not considered it in connection with Shelbourne.
The base model for EMT personnel requirements is believed to be the Atria on Route 9A in Ardsley, which is an assisted living facility that reportedly calls for medical emergency crews on a regular basis.