Orange Avenue Apartments – If You Build It, Will They Come?

Posted on 26 August 2014 by Editor

Joshua Goldstein (on the right at the podium) at one of the many Orange Avenue Associates presentations on the proprosed apartment complex in downtown Suffern.

Joshua Goldstein (on the right at the podium) at one of the many Orange Avenue Associates presentations on the proposed apartment complex in downtown Suffern.

The long journey of Suffern’s Orange Avenue luxury apartment project took another turn last week as the Town of Ramapo adopted a resolution that would set the development’s property taxes for up to 40 years.

Ramapo’s PILOT resolution (payment in lieu of taxes) would set town, county and school district taxes for the development’s taxes “for at least 25 years and up to 40 years,” according to The Journal News reporter Akiko Matsuda.

Hotel Lafayette property in Suffern and site of the proposed Orange Avenue apartment complex. / Image via Google Earth

Hotel Lafayette property in Suffern — site of the proposed Orange Avenue apartment complex. / Image via Google Earth

The Ramapo resolution essentially cuts the Ramapo Central School District’s taxing authority as it relates to the Orange Avenue Development, a move that could save Orange Avenue Associates hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the PILOT agreement. Orange Avenue Development presented a tax plan to the school board on July 1, but the board determined not to take action at that time.

The Ramapo Central School Board has set a special meeting for 5 p.m. Tuesday, August 26, to discuss the matter.

According to Matsuda’s LoHud article, the Ramapo agreement would net the town, county and school district some $92,500 in total property taxes for the first five years, with payment increases of 4% every five years. Suffern’s tax bill would be separate and is set through the PILOT agreement at a total of some $42,500 for the first five years, with a $10,000 increase every five years that eventually net the village $108,000 over the last five years of the agreement.

The village currently receives approximately $26,000 per year from the Hotel Lafayette property.

Suffern will hold a Public Hearing on September 3 at the Village Hall auditorium on the proposed zoning change, which, if approved, would create a Transit Development District specific to the block of properties included in the Orange Avenue development.

SuffernUrbanRenewalmapOrange Avenue Associates, the Suffern-based developer behind the 91-unit luxury apartment project, has been working through various channels at the village, town and state level to get funding and approval for the 1.5 acre site. The apartment complex would replace the deteriorating Hotal Lafayette property at the corner of Orange Avenue and Chestnut, and be the main set piece of Suffern’s Urban Renewal Plan — initiated in 2008 under former Suffern Mayor John Keegan.

The Suffern Village Board approved a separate PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement for Orange Avenue Development LLC on May 15, which set village property taxes for the proposed 91-unit apartment complex for up to 35 years. Orange Avenue Development is one of Orange Avenue Associates various companies and is the company developing this particular Suffern project.

Way back when the Hotel Lafayette stood its ground in Suffern, NY. / via Suffern historical documents.

Way back in the day when the Hotel Lafayette stood its ground in Suffern, NY. / via Suffern historical documents.

Since the fall of 2013, Suffern has had several Public Hearings and Special Board meetings that reviewed the Orange Avenue project, primarily related to scope and size of the project, the project’s financing via the PILOT agreement proposal and a village zone change that would create a special Transit Development District. The result of the meetings was a scaled back original plan from six floors and 111 units to the current plan of five floors and 91 apartment units, which are projected to rent in the $2000 to $2,500 range.

Joshua Goldstein said during the proceedings, and after, in order to draw businesses to downtown Suffern there must be people who will shop at the stores and eat at the restaurants. Goldstein’s arguement is that the Orange Avenue project will provide people who, presumably, would have disposable income and frequent downtown restaurants and stores. Thus, ramping up the population density of the downtown would provide the foundation for downtown revitalization.

People who attended the hearings focused their objections on a PILOT agreement that they said benefits a private developer and caps the village’s tax revenue for the development. Others argued that if Orange Avenue needed the PILOT agreement to move forward with financing the project, the company shouldn’t be considered — “If they can’t afford the building, they shouldn’t build it,” said one audience member.

Perhaps the most freighted topic was the zoning process itself. Several residents said that if the village was intent on developing the Hotel Lafayette and surrounding properties, Suffern should make the zoning change and open up the process to development to outside bids. Although the current process favors Orange Avenue Associates, it has also allowed Suffern to tightly control the entire project.

Suffern will hold a Public Hearing on September 3, at 6:30 p.m. at the Village Hall auditorium on the proposed zoning change, which, if approved, would create a Transit Development District specific to the block of properties included in the Orange Avenue development.

Update – the article has been updated to reflect that Suffern’s Urban Renewal Plan was initially devised in December 2008 under then Mayor John Keegan. Dagan Lacorte was Deputy Mayor at that time.

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