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Sandy Hill Arts Center

A look inside the Sandy Hill Arts Center at 214-216 Main St., Hudson Falls.

QUEENSBURY — The Warren-Washington Industrial Development Agency is moving forward with a potential payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for a project renovating the old Masonic Temple building in Hudson Falls.

The building at 214-216 Main St. is owned by attorney William Nikas under the Sandy Hill Arts Center name. Nikas is currently renovating the structure and plans to house a restaurant, offices, artisan studio spaces and an event space there.

After much discussion, the IDA board voted 8-1 at a meeting Tuesday to accept Nikas’s revised application for financial assistance and send the matter to a public hearing. The IDA has not yet determined the date of the hearing.

The action does not authorize the agreement, said Matthew Simpson, IDA chairman and Horicon supervisor. If the IDA chooses to authorize the payment in lieu of taxes agreement following the public hearing, the town of Kingsbury still has to authorize it too.

IDA member G. Travis Whitehead was against the resolution, and member Bruce Ferguson was absent.

Whitehead said he did not believe that the project was economically viable and, therefore, it was not in the mission and scope of the IDA’s purview. He said the Sandy Hill Arts Center project is a wonderful one, but not something the IDA should be involved with.

Michael Bittel, the IDA’s chief financial and executive officer, said he believed the project would improve the Hudson Falls community, and the IDA’s mission also speaks “to the greater good of the community. There’s a duality here,” he added.

Craig Leggett, Chester supervisor and an IDA board member, said while the financial projects may “look a little lean, I think this is a resolution worth moving forward.”

Another concern Whitehead had was about the application. Nikas had indicated that he would be completing the project whether he got the IDA’s assistance or not.

Nikas said at the meeting that the project would only be partially completed with no financial assistance.

Michael Brandi and Kara Lais, counsel for the IDA, both said, too, that the building is in a former Empire Zone, or distressed community, and thus the project qualifies as a potential project for the IDA. Whitehead said he would clarify that to say the project cannot be excluded.

Members spent time reviewing payment-in-lieu-of-taxes worksheets to come up with a cost-benefit analysis of the project. This had board members scratching their heads, as they needed to come up with an estimated new assessed value of the building to determine a potential tax exemption number and percentage of project costs financed by the organization.

Nikas said in his application that he estimated his new assessment at $300,000, though the IDA decided to estimate $400,000. The current assessed value is $140,000, which Nikas said is $140,000 too much. Based on his $300,000 potential assessment, Nikas said he was estimated a 4 percent return on profit of $12,000 a year.

The vast majority of the money he needs is to get the building up to building code. To indicate the shape it’s in, Nikas said it was sold in 1983 at a tax sale for $250. It fell into more disrepair, and Nikas bought it at a foreclosure short sale for the $140,000.

“This is not a project to make profit,” Nikas told the agency members. “This is a project for my hometown. I know that may seem like a Pollyanna reason, but that’s what’s going on here with this building,” he added.

After the agency board passed the resolution accepting his application, Nikas thanked them.

“We’re moving,” said Nicholas Caimano, an IDA member, to Nikas. “Slow, but sure.”

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Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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