Beacon school board, spa fail to reach agreement

It’s not clear when, or if, Mirbeau Inn & Spa Beacon, the luxury hospitality company that plans to redevelop the historic Tioronda Estate, intends to apply to the Dutchess County Industrial Development Agency for a property tax break. But if it does, it may have to do so without the support of the Beacon school district.

The company, which purchased the 64-acre property on Route 9D last year for $10 million, had planned to ask the IDA to approve a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreement. If approved, Mirbeau would make a yearly payment to the City of Beacon and the school district based on its property assessment, but at a reduced rate.

The agreements are often granted to companies that are expected to contribute significant economic or job growth or another public benefit, such as affordable housing.

The IDA asked the city and school district to indicate their support for the proposal before Mirbeau submits its application. Beacon officials wrote a letter of support in November after the City Council discussed the matter in a closed session, but the school board has been a tougher sell. It has debated the proposal twice previously without reaching a decision.

Ed Kellogg, one of the owners of Mirbeau, spoke on Monday (Jan. 9) to the school board for a second time, but the discussion ended abruptly and without resolution when Kellogg would not commit to a “giveback” to offset the district’s potential loss of tax revenue.

The property owner currently pays the city and school district together about $100,000 in taxes each year. Under the agreement, Mirbeau has said that by the third year it would pay an estimated $175,000 annually to the district.

But the increase would come at a cost. Because the PILOT agreement would remove the estate from the tax rolls for 15 years, its property assessment — sure to increase as Mirbeau redevelops the parcel, which includes the former Craig House psychiatric hospital — would not count toward what is known as a “tax-base growth factor.”

The growth factor is a mechanism through which the state allows school districts to increase their tax levies based on an increase in taxable property assessments. In other words, as high-priced developments proliferate in Beacon, the district has benefited through nearly $2 million in additional tax revenue in the last three years, Board President Meredith Heuer said on Monday.

While Mirbeau’s redevelopment of the property, which has been vacant since the hospital closed in 1999, as a hotel and spa is sure to bring visitors who will shop on Main Street and eat in Beacon’s restaurants, board members asked Kellogg if the company would be willing to contribute to a “community fund,” such as the nonprofit Foundation for Beacon Schools, to make up for some of the growth-factor loss.

“Would you sit down with our attorney to get some assurances that if we do write this letter of support, there would be some benefit to the schools, whether it be through a community organization, or employment for students?” Board Member Anthony White asked.

“I’d have to talk to my partners,” Kellogg answered, noting that the company considers the additional PILOT revenue, plus the “upside” of those payments increasing as the property is developed, to be the major benefit of the proposed agreement. “This is totally outside of what we normally do.”

The conversation ended 90 seconds later.

“I would strongly recommend a pause, because we are really trying to work with you,” Board Member Kristan Flynn said. “We’re trying to make this happen, but we’re not in a real-estate negotiation.”

Kellogg said on Thursday that Mirbeau is discussing its next steps internally and with the IDA. After being approved by the Planning Board in December for the first phase of the redevelopment, the firm had hoped to begin work next month, but that’s in jeopardy after Monday’s meeting.

Kellogg said the company has supported community endeavors in its other locations, but not contractually. “I was a little bit surprised” by the response of the school board, he said, adding that the PILOT agreement would be “a huge economic gain for the schools and the city.”

“It might not be a tax payment, but it’s a revenue payment,” he said.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics

8 replies on “Mirbeau’s Next Move Unclear”

  1. Rather than a hotel and spa, would it be better if the Tioronda Estate in Beacon was rezoned as residential and 80 new houses were built there? That could add 100 students to the school district, push it out of its low-income state-aid bracket and increase taxes by 40 percent.

    The owners of the property have paid $50,000 annually in school taxes for 20 years. Let the developers get their feet underneath them before we start hammering them with $500,000 bills.

    The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) we should be questioning is for Tompkins Terrace. Why does a multibillion-dollar real-estate company need help fixing up its complex? Poor execution of its business plan? That PILOT won’t create any permanent jobs and the developer is likely to get most of its money through grants and low-interest federal loans. If I came in asking for millions in tax relief, I wouldn’t be wearing $700 dress shoes and a $10,000 watch. But it’s “for the people,” so no one is questioning it. [via Facebook]

  2. How can a spa resort get tax abatement but I get constant tax increases? How can a private, for-profit company get free taxes but seniors get gentrified out? [via Facebook]

  3. I’d love to see this project go through; it’s an excellent developer. But we need to end these tax breaks to make projects happen. Projects need to be able to happen on their own, and the end users need to pay the taxes the city and county have passed. [via Instagram]

  4. A developer that can afford to spend $10 million on a property can certainly be expected to pay its fair share of taxes. [via Instagram]

  5. I hope the school board stands up in ways other boards have not. There’s got to be a better way to develop in Beacon. [via Instagram]

  6. Part of the problem is that state tax assessment law and guidelines allow local assessors to maintain their own financial fiefdoms, and lagging assessments favor longtime owners with below-market assessments because their property has not traded and assessments are done every three years. They also disadvantage new entrants (developers or new buyers) who are assessed at full-market value as a result of recorded sale or construction and pay a disproportionately higher tax.

    For developers, this is often the point at which a project is no longer financially viable without a PILOT. While industrial development agencies can be inefficient, they are necessary to ensure local government doesn’t tax the local economy into ruin. In this case, because the project is not residential, the school district will not receive new students, so the impact should be minimal. [via Instagram]

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