SYRACUSE -- Mayor Jamie Nagle claims political ideology is costing the city a chance to create more jobs.
Nagle said a recent nonvote by the city's Redevelopment Agency on a proposal to approve a plan for a new economic development project area in the region of Syracuse High School and State Road 193 was driven by ideology, not what is best for the city.
She said it hurts efforts to create jobs and boost the city's economy.
Developer Ninigret Group, L.C., has linked as many as 1,200 jobs to the development proposal near the high school. Efforts to change the zoning on the projected property have been voted down twice since the beginning of the year. The latest proposal would have established an economic development project area, which offers tax incentives to businesses.
In the meantime, the Ninigret Group has received a green light to move ahead with a much smaller development on a small parcel of property that borders Syracuse and Clearfield. The city council voted unanimously Tuesday to grant final subdivision approval for Ninigret North 1, located at approximately 1100 West and 450 South. The project includes four lots and is on land already zoned for industrial use.
Company officials suggested that property would be developed regardless of what happened with the land near the high school. However, specific plans for the type of business to go in that area have not been laid out by the company.
The project faces similar review in Clearfield later this month.
In a public hearing on the proposed rezone of the property near Syracuse High, responses came from three residents, who asked questions about the viability of a budget for the zone. The hearing did not include comments from a specialist who created the EDA budget or from Ninigret.
Nagle insists the three people who spoke against the project, Terry Palmer and Pat and Ray Zaugg, have spoken against every project proposed for the region. She claims the three may have the ear of some council members, who chose not to act on the EDA.
Susan Becker, of Zions Bank, helped craft a budget for the proposed development zone, and she said a nonvote on the proposal won't help the city's bottom line.
"What do top businesses do? They bring in quality jobs. It's good for the property tax base. You only have so much prime commercial property in your city, and you better make the best use of it," Becker said.
She said with an EDA the city would be on a level playing field with other communities trying to attract businesses and development.
Ray Zaugg spoke out against the multi-million budget spelled out in the EDA proposal and said the tax increments offered to prospective business would not trickle down to help the community in a timely fashion.
"These numbers easily add up to $9 million that the taxing entities forgo for 15 years. Where's all the money we're going to get to help fix our roads when this development goes in? By the time the 15 years are up, we'll have to redo the road. It (the proposal) needs a lot of work before you guys can even consider approving it," Zaugg said.
Palmer opposed the proposal, suggesting the city swallowed too many risks, and the developer or businesses take on too few.
"It seems to me, when you go in business you take risks. When I look at this, there are no risks. I would say these are a no-go for me," Palmer said.
Councilwoman Karianne Lisonbee has been at odds with Nagle for months about possible plans for the region. She said the issue was not driven by ideology and suggested open dialogue about possible development near the high school has been good for the community.
Mike Eggett, director of Community Development, said an EDA is set up to promote job growth and the city had commissioned a study in 2011 to look at possible incentives in the area.
In the work session, some council members were concerned the EDA zone draft was in conflict with the city's general plan.
When the issue came up again in the Redevelopment Agency meeting, which followed the work session, Councilman Doug Peterson made the motion to approve the EDA draft. His motion was met with silence.
"It is unfortunate that the city council refuses to look at long-term sustainability for our city. We were making tremendous progress in so many areas, but you can't keep pulling rabbits out of a hat for one-time fixes. There has to be vision that melds the past with the future to ensure that our city is prosperous not just today, but for our kids as well," Nagle said.