COMIDA Should Reject Townhouse Project in Corn Hill

Legislator Barnhart delivered the following letter today to Ana Liss, Executive Director of COMIDA.

Dear Ms. Liss,

Congratulations on your appointment to the position of Executive Director of the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency. I am confident you will bring much-needed energy and innovation to economic development efforts in our community.

I am writing to oppose the application of 291 S. Plymouth, LLC for tax incentives to construct three, 1,440 square foot townhouses. These townhouses in Corn Hill would each have one bedroom and two-car garages. They would be priced at between $300,000 and $350,000.

The incentives are part of the city-endorsed CHOICE program, which gives a 50 percent property tax abatement to buyers newly-constructed units. The developer would also realize more than $35,000 in mortgage and sales tax abatements.

It is my understanding that this application was removed from Tuesday’s COMIDA board agenda but could come up for review at the March meeting. I encourage COMIDA to reject this project — and all other tax incentives for luxury housing.

The CHOICE program has been a giveaway to the wealthy and did not accomplish its mission of greatly adding owner-occupied units downtown. In the many years of its existence, few units were constructed and they were all in the high-end market. The data shows affluent people took advantage of this program.

More than one-third of city residents live in poverty. We have a shortage of units for our low-income neighbors. We should not be investing our resources in housing for the wealthy.

This application is particularly offensive in a year when many city homeowners saw their assessments skyrocket, which will undoubtedly lead to higher property tax bills. We’ll be the ones paying our full share, subsidizing those who don’t need any assistance.

County Executive Adam Bello ran on ending these types of giveaways. He has repeatedly said opportunity should not depend on the ZIP Code in which we live or how much money we make. This is a chance for COMIDA to demonstrate these values. 

I look forward to working with the new administration as you review and develop economic development policies and vision. I have great hope for our future in Monroe County.

Warm regards,

Rachel Barnhart