ITHACA, NY – A revision of the tax break incentive plan designed to encourage development in Ithaca seeks to bring more “community benefits” to the table, according to city officials.

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The Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement Program, or CIITAP, was originally drafted in 2012.  The initial version of the plan was seen as successful in encouraging development in Ithaca.

Five new projects were approved for the program since 2012, with two more pending approval. By comparison, the previous plan, which was active from 2006 to 2012, saw only one project approved.

While the CIITAP program has been considered a success in terms of encouraging development, Mayor Svante Myrick and others felt that CIITAP did not result in enough “community benefits.”

Related: How can Ithaca make its tax incentive plan meaningful?

New development restrictions to create new “community benefits”

As it currently stands, CIITAP has relatively few restrictions. Beyond basic requirements that a new development would increase land value and meet a certain height requirement, developers were under no obligation to return any real value to the community.

A committee was formed to address these issues. Chaired by Alderperson Ellen McCollister, the committee included members from local and county government, labor groups, developers, and other specialists.

According to Alderperson McCollister, the committee’s biggest sticking point revolved around local labor. The current wording requires developers to commit to sourcing 40% of their labor force from local labor. Local, in this context, means Tompkins and adjoining counties. Notably, this implementation excludes workers from Syracuse and Binghamton.

Other goals of the revision include requiring developers to require a living wage for their workers, and increased requirements for sustainability and environmental friendliness.

The draft of the new plan goes before the Planning and Economic Development Committee on Thursday. If the draft passes through without changes, it may reach Common Council for a vote by January. If the draft gets tangled up in excessive reworks, however, it may fall apart completely.

“If this version tanks, my feeling is that there’s not going to be a lot of stomach to start to something new,” said McCollister. She added, “If [this version] unravels then what people must recognize is that original program will hold.”

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.