Johnstown approves PILOT agreements

JOHNSTOWN — The Common Council in special session Thursday night approved two Payment In Lieu of Taxes agreements with the new managers of the Trackside Homes I and Trackside Homes II housing complexes.

Action followed a presentation Monday night during the council’s regular meeting at City Hall by Lewis Brown of the Vesta Corp., which is taking over ownership of the Trackside units. The council had to wait until Thursday to approve the PILOTs because resolutions hadn’t been drawn up Monday night.

The council Thursday night first approved the agreement for Trackside I. The resolution indicated that Vesta Trackside LLC will “develop, own, rehabilitate and operate” the low-income complex. The 20-year PILOT is in the amount of $39,000 increasing by 2 percent annually payable to the city on or before March 1 of each year. Trackside I has 96 one-bedroom units; while Trackside II has 21 one-bedroom units and 89 two-bedroom units.

Also approved was a similar 20-year PILOT agreement for Trackside II, also for $39,000.

Fourth Ward Councilman Max Spritzer said he spoke to a Trackside resident who “expressed concern” about maintenance at Trackside not being as quick since Vesta took over. He said the resident indicated things are taking longer to get repaired, alleging Vesta might be “shortstaffed.”

On another topic, Spritzer said what was relayed to him was “there seems to be a sense of uneasiness for the residents as far as security.” Spritzer said he shared the concerns with 1st Ward Councilman Bradley Hayner, whose ward the Trackside housing is in.

Hayner told the council that Brown indicated to him that Vesta doesn’t quite own the complexes yet, but manages them. He said Brown indicated there will be security “upgraded” at Trackside Homes I and II.

“They put the residents first,” he quoted Brown as saying.

Hayner said Brown stated that tenant meetings will also be held.

Mayor Vern Jackson said he was “surprised” that Trackside Homes doesn’t have an in-house tenant association to air grievances.

In his presentation Monday night before the council, Brown, a former Boston lawyer, said the Vesta Corp. has been a manager of affordable housing for 40 years along the East Coast and as far west as Texas. He said Trackside would be his firm’s fourth such property in New York state.

Brown said Vesta took over in November as property managers of Trackside Homes.

“We retained all the staff,” he said.

Brown said that by all accounts the change is working well for all concerned, “most importantly” for the residents.

Spritzer asked Brown if Vesta is trying to hire a property manager for Trackside. Brown said there is an existing manager, but Vesta is advertising for an additional person.

Brown said the arrangement for residents occupying the units remains the same: Trackside I no age limit; and Trackside II basically for seniors.

Jackson said he knows residents of Trackside who have expressed positivity about Vesta.

“They’re all very happy with the way it’s going,” the mayor said.

Second Ward Councilwoman Kathi Iannotti told the council her contacts also tell her its been a “smooth transition.”

By Patricia Older