There had/has been some discussion on social media regarding York Labs/Rockland Community College’s Start-Up New York venture on the corner of Gedney Street and High Avenue in Nyack.
The issue has raised some questions about Village actions related to Start-Up NY, local zoning, tax incentives and decision making/transparency of local government for neighbors and other residents in the village.
Tax Incentive: The tax incentive question is probably the easiest to address. It was speculated by some that the 10 year tax incentive was outrageous and was going to cost the village much needed tax dollars.
The headquarters for York Labs will continue to pay their local taxes to the village, town and county. They are eligible for tax credits that lower their taxable corporate income at the State level. While these tax credits will result in York Labs paying lower taxes there is no impact on local municipality’s taxes.
Local Zoning: Allowable uses in zoning districts are regulated by the Village of Nyack Zoning Code. For example, the TFR (“two family residential”) district is for two family residential uses. Multiple uses are permitted in various zoning districts and these are listed in the Village of Nyack Code Table 3.1. Our local zoning code also allows for what’s known as a “governmental” use and that use is available “by right” throughout the village. This means that once the owner of property can prove that they are operating a “government use” they have the right to do so, in any zoning district.
So what is a governmental use and how is that determination made? The Village of Nyack Code at Article VI, § 360-6.1 defines governmental use as follows:
A facility owned or operated by the Village or other government entity and not subject to the standards of this chapter [Section 360—Zoning], including but not limited to: water supply reservations; parks and open space; playgrounds; libraries; firehouses; police stations; and public parking areas.
By law the determination of what a “use” is rests with the Building Inspector. The Building Inspector is an independent professional who has the sole right to make this decision. The Building Inspector’s determinations are not subject to review or influenced by political elected officials. There has been some discussion that the York property was a change of “use” and therefore required public notice and review by the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals. As with every land use application the Building Inspector first reviewed the application. In this specific case, before issuing his finding he consulted with the Village Attorney. Our attorney confirmed that York Labs, based on its acceptance into Start-Up NY in conjunction with Rockland Community College complies with the definition of governmental use in our zoning code.
Start-Up New York: What is it and how does it work? Start-Up NY is a program designed to help new businesses take root in New York and help existing businesses expand in the state. In order to qualify for the program, a business must meet these requirements: it must be a new business in New York State or an existing New York business relocating to or expanding within the state; it must partner with a New York state college or university and it should create new jobs and contribute to the economic development of the local community. Applications for entry into this program are reviewed by the Start-Up NY Commissioner and Approval Board. To learn more about this program go to the Start-Up NY website at https://startup.ny.gov/
Local Government Transparency: It does not seem that there has been a lack of transparency from local officials. They followed all of the appropriate protocols and procedures concerning this application.
The York headquarters has been in operation for over a year and there was not one complaint about it until the project was promoted in the press as a success for Start-Up NY.
How do we move forward? The ability of a property owner implementing a government use does not seem like a big risk for Nyack residents. The bar for approval is set fairly high, the type of businesses that can qualify are limited and Start-Up NY is the critical piece for obtaining this “use” designation.
The diligence of local government to control our zoning laws was not compromised by this action and the speculation of some about a growing number of government use designations seems unlikely.
It seems the issue is a matter of trust from some residents and not a matter of policy. Gaining and maintaining trust is sometimes a difficult task, but those in public service must always work to that end.
I commit to earning the trust of the community in making decisions that are best for all of the residents of Nyack. This has always been my focus and will continue to be in the future.
Not everyone will agree with every decision, but I promise to be thorough, intentional and thoughtful in decisions I make with the board for the best of our village.