Written by Rich Forestano Saturday, 23 March 2013 00:00
Downtown revitalization never seems to go by the wayside in Nassau County and is a key component for growth in the area, says comptroller Howard Weitzman. Weitzman held a roundtable discussion with Anton Newspaper editors last week and will face-off in a primary race with Nassau County Legislator Wayne Wink.
The winner will face incumbent George Maragos in the November.
“If you look at the most successful communities in Nassau County…they all follow the same model,” said Weitzman. “Railroad station downtown, multiple-family dwellings surrounding the railroad stations and beautiful single-family homes around that. It can all exist together. But you can’t rely on one model.”
Weitzman said he’d work with villages to navigate county departments, talking to developers about tax structures and interactions with developers and the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency (IDA).
“I’m coming as a former mayor of a village that was on the cusp of that model,” he said. “Great Neck Estates, which was walking distance to the train station, right off a commercial road, beautiful stately homes and right in the center of town.”
The IDA plays a key role in development in Nassau County. The agency did not return calls for comment.
Concerning PILOT programs (payment in lieu of taxes), Weitzman said the issue of PILOT’s is that it’s usually “done as an incentive” because taxes are high in Nassau County.
“Because of that, it’s impossible to have commercial development without PILOT payments,” he said. “In fact, developers are subsidizing business. Even though the nominal tax rates are very high, that’s how they bring down the tax rates. Otherwise, you could no longer could afford development out here.”
One issue community leaders and members are opposed to is PILOT extensions. Recently, the Bristal Assisted Living facilities in Westbury, Massapequa and North Hills applied for extensions and fought backlash from the community.
The original Westbury plan called for adding three full-time positions, the fewest among the three communities. At a public hearing in November, a group of 100 residents, lawmakers and school officials spoke about rising tax rates.
The North Hills plan saw immediate backlash from the Herricks School District. Weitzman stated that community input is needed.
The IDA holds public hearings for residents to attend who have questions about developments in the community. Though Weitzman said the comptroller has no authority on the IDA, the officer of the comptroller “protects the taxpayers.”