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vpb0710_120Village of Lansing Trustees voted 4-0 Monday to acknowledge that funding and financing conditions for a project that will bring a BJ's Wholesale Club to the Shops at Ithaca Mall have been satisfied.  To some extent it was an official sigh of relief that a project Village Trustees want can now go forward.  The project has traversed a very rocky political road that centers on a tax abatement that would divert money generated by the commercial portion of the project to help finance senior residential apartments, wetlands, and a bird sanctuary.

"That has come to a positive conclusion," said Village Mayor Donald Hartill Monday.  "In the end it's going in a very positive way."

Total sales tax generated by the new store are estimated to be around $748,000 per year.  That money will be split among Tompkins County municipalities, not including the City of Ithaca.  The County itself will realize about $430,000 of that.  By the 15th year of the PIF developers estimate the store will generate $986,970 in sales tax.

The Town and Village of Lansing and Tompkins County, will receive increased sales and property tax generated from this project.  The Village of Lansing is split in half between the Lansing and Ithaca school districts, with the mall falling within the city school district's boundaries.  That means the Ithaca City School District does not receive sales tax, but will benefit in increased property tax.

The project benefits the Village because it creates a gradual segue between high traffic commercial activity and the residential portion of the Village that fits Village planning goals.  Hartill acknowledges the upward tax impact that will directly benefit all communities within Tompkins County except for the City of Ithaca with new sales tax money, and advocates say it indirectly benefit the city because county sales tax revenues will rise and business will be attracted to the area as a whole as new people come to Ithaca to shop in the BJ's store.

"It also helps the environment, because people have been driving out of the region to similar stores in Elmira and Auburn," Hartill said.  "One person (at a public comments meeting) commented, 'I rent a van and go down to Elmira every two weeks to purchase what I need for my day care center.'  A number of other people made the same comment.  So hopefully this will help in that respect.  And by no small measure, it generates another 70 jobs or so for the Village.  They're not the highest paying jobs, but they are jobs.  You can't be too picky these days."

On August 21st the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency (IDA reversed an earlier 'no' vote on the agreement, a PIF (Payment in lieu of taxes Increment Financing).  In its final form the cost of the housing was taken out of the agreement, with the commercial entity diverting a decreasing amount of tax payments to help finance the housing.  Of the four affected taxing authorities, the Town, Village, and County had already voted to participate in the PIF.  That left the Ithaca City School District, which voted it down 4-1 with two abstentions.  But that was judged to be an inadequate vote because of a requirement that the school board have five votes one way or the other, and in a revote March 31st it passed 6-2.

That paved the way for the Village to go forward with the PDA (Planned Development Area) process that requires both Village Board of Trustees and Planning Board approvals along the way, along with permitting by Code Enforcement Officer Marty Moseley.

Developers have said they want to start construction as soon as possible.  Village officials say a permit can now be issued so the site work can begin next week.  Before a building permit is issued all 18 conditions of the PDA must be met, including such items as a full planting list for the wetland and bird habitat, a lighting plan, site work approval, a pedestrian walkway plan, a landscape and buffer plan, and various other approvals.  While not all of the requirements of the PDA have been met yet, Monday's vote was an affirmation of Village support for the project.

"It's been a long path," Hartill said.  "It was not a small amount of drama, but it's come out favorably to the Village.  All parties finally realized that in our current economic environment to ignore a million dollars of sales tax revenue was not very bright."

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