Gloversville Planning Board tables rezoning request for ‘Glove City Lofts’

PHOTOGRAPHER:
Jason Subik/The Leader-Herald Ken Kearney, owner of the Kearney Realty Group, makes his presentation to the Gloversville Planning Board on Tuesday night.

By JASON SUBIK

The Leader-Herald

GLOVERSVILLE — The city Planning Board declared itself the lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review Act process for the proposed $20 million “Glove City Lofts” at 51 Church St., but also tabled the city’s request to recommend rezoning the parcel, a necessary step for the apartment building to be built.

The Planning Board first dealt with the city’s request to recommend rezoning the parcel, as one of about 120 pieces of property the city officials would like to be rezoned as part of the city’s Brownfield Opportunity Area and Local Waterfront Revitalization Program Steering Committee process.

The Common Council voted unanimously on Sept. 28 to refer the rezoning plan to both the city Planning Board and the Fulton County Planning Board for their recommendations before the council votes on enacting the rezoning changes.

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Sean Geraghty, the city Planning Board’s consultant, said the only information the city provided regarding the proposed zoning change was a copy of the resolution approved on Sept. 28, which includes a list of parcels and proposed zoning changes, but no maps or justification for the changes or analysis of what the impact of them would be.

“It’s up to you guys, if you guys want to send a recommendation over to the council based on getting a resolution from them, that’s up to you,” Geraghty said.

The consensus of the Planning Board did not want to do that. They voted to table the matter and request more information before their next meeting. Geraghty said he suspects the County Planning Board will also want more information before recommending the zoning changes.

Councilman-at-large William Rowback Jr., who is also the Republican candidate for mayor in the November election, was the only member of the council to attend the Planning Board meeting. He said he also serves on the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program Steering Committee. He said he knows more information supporting the proposed zoning changes exists and he’s been shown it during the steering committee meetings, but he wants all of it presented to the common council and the Planning Board before the city enacts the changes.

“The mayor has to get more information out to the council,” Rowback said, adding that he wants “complete transparency.”

Plan presentation

Ken Kearney, owner of the Kearney Realty Group, then gave an approximately 45-minute presentation regarding his company’s site plan application for the proposed Glove City Lofts apartment building. He said the artists housing concept has been successful for his company in other locations in New York state, including two cities, Rome and Oneonta, where the apartment buildings were cornerstone projects as part of those cities winning applications for the New York State $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative in the Mohawk Valley. He said he’s hoping Gloversville will prove to be the third winning DRI application in the Mohawk Valley his company has been involved in.

“Our projects are linked to bring foot traffic and synergy back to an area that has seen disinvestment, lack of foot traffic,” he said.

The Planning Board was mostly interested in the vehicle traffic and the available parking for the proposed building. Kearney’s site plan includes 64 parking spaces for the 75-unit building, which would be located directly on Frontage Road and Church Street, reorienting the parking lot to the rear of the parcel, after the former Frontier call center building currently on the lot is demolished.

Kearney said his buildings never have assigned parking for tenants and the 64 spaces is the most parking for this type of building that he’s built. He said he believes the nearby public parking spaces available will be enough to accomodate the tenants, but said he would consider some kind of license agreement to procure more parking if necessary.

Planning Board Chairman Geoffrey Peck said Kearney’s site plan application includes a subdivision of the 2.9 acre site and a potential Phase 2, which would include building an additional 75-unit building on the other parcel. Peck suggested some of the Phase 2 parcel could be used for additional parking for Phase 1.

“Then, if you find as you’re moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2 that it’s not necessary you can eliminate it,” Peck said.

Kearney said it might be possible to designate a portion of the second parcel for overflow parking, but he said the legal details would need to be worked out.

“I’m open to it,” he said.

Rowback after the meeting said he supports the project, but he’s concerned about the parking and other issues.

“We have to look at the parking restrictions and whether we’ll be allowing the use of city parking lots, if they’re allowing city parking lots to be filled with the residents of this housing complex, and if you have Main Street, where you’ve got apartments above storefronts, where are they going to park?” he said. “We’ll have to see. I do support it, but we’ll have to see if the funding is there and wait for the groundbreaking.”

The Planning Board asked Kearney if he would seek a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement from the city.

Kearney said he will seek a PILOT agreement because the rents of the building will be restricted based on the federal tax credits his company needs to obtain the financing for the building, based on New York state Real Property Tax Law 5801A, which allows the cash flow revenues of the apartment building to be a factor in how it should assessed for property taxes, rather than the total assessed value of the building.

“It has to be assessed with the limitations of the cash flow,” he said. “So, what we normally do is do a 5801A analysis, and we say this is what we think the taxes will be, and we sit down with the tax assessor and say ‘are we close?’, and normally we’re close.”

Kearney said he will likely seek a PILOT tax agreement with the local property tax jurisdictions before applying for about $1.1 million worth of federal income-based housing tax credits awarded by New York State office of Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), which he expects to do in December or January of 2022, after he has all of the local approvals needed for the project.

The Kearney Realty Group in May entered into a 12-month purchase option agreement with the CRG to buy the 52 Church St. lot for $200,000. Kearney Tuesday night said he couldn’t point to any specific step in the local approvals process or funding process for the project that would trigger him to close the deal to buy the land, but he said he hopes to do so within a few months.

Kearney has also applied for $1 million as part of Gloversville’s application for the 2021 $10 million DRI. He said it’s possible if the DRI grant is not awarded that it could delay the project by a year, but would not say that the project was contingent on receipt of the state grant.

Kearney said he anticipates income-contingent 1-bedroom apartment units for Glove City Lofts will charge approximately $665 in rent per month and the income-contingent 2-bedroom units will charge about $775 per month in rent. He said the ‘middle-income’ units will have higher rents, possibly up to 20% more. He said the federal tax credit program wants none of the renters paying more than 30% of their income toward rent.

“So, you figure if somebody makes 80% of the area median income, a family of three … their rent would approximately be $900 [per month], but what they say is you rent that middle-income apartment with a 20% ‘rent advantage’, to bring it up to 100% [of the area median income],” Kearney told the Planning Board. “So, now you’re attracting people with incomes up to your average median income, so it’s an incentive to get people in to qualify [for the apartments].”

Kearney said the concept of the “middle-income units” is tied to the $1 million in DRI funding his company seeks, because that funding would not have the income-restrictions present in the federal tax credits.

“This is why the DRI is critical to this, because the DRI comes with money, and that money can be allocated to [designating more Glove City Lofts units as] middle-income units,” he said. “So then you’re able to get more middle-income units. We love this program. We were the first guys to do it. They called us the guinea pigs, and it’s worked pretty well for us, [because] it lets you get higher-incomes [as tenants for some of the units].”

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By Paul Wager