If approved, site would qualify for rehab tax credits
New York’s Board for Historic Preservation on March 9 said it is recommending that 13 properties, including the Tioronda Estate in Beacon, be added to the state and national registers of historic places.
A listing on the registers can make site owners eligible for preservation programs and services, such as state grants and federal tax credits. The Tioronda Estate was nominated by its owner, Mirbeau Inn & Spa Beacon.
If the site is added to both registries, the federal government would give credits covering 20 percent of the cost of rehabilitating the property and the state would provide matching grants for 20 percent or 30 percent of qualifying rehab spending, up to $5 million.
After a site is approved for the state Register of Historic Places, the nomination is submitted to the National Park Service for the national register. The process typically takes 45 to 60 days, according to the state parks department.
Mirbeau received Planning Board approval in December for the first phase of its plans to redevelop the 64-acre site with a luxury spa and hotel, among other amenities. The project is expected to cost $54 million for the first phase; Mirbeau, which purchased the property a year ago for $10 million, is also applying to the Dutchess County Industrial Development Agency for a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreement.
The core of the property is the 14,000-square-foot mansion that was built in 1859 for Gen. Joseph Howland and his wife, who later donated the estate for the care of the mentally ill. It includes a Gothic Revival main house with Colonial Revival and English Cottage additions and outbuildings. The buildings were designed by architects Frederick Clarke Withers and Richard Morris Hunt, while the landscape design was the work of horticulturalist Henry Winthrop Sargent, a protégé and patron of Andrew Jackson Downing.
Part of the property was purchased by two doctors who in 1915 opened a psychiatric hospital specializing in addiction treatment, calling it Craig House. Zelda Fitzgerald, Frances Seymour (the wife of Henry Fonda and mother of Peter and Jane Fonda) and Rosemary Kennedy (the elder sister of President John F. Kennedy) were all patients at the facility.
The hospital relied on individualized treatment in natural settings, but, by the 1950s, medicinal treatment of mental health began to render facilities such as the Craig House obsolete. The site has been vacant since the psychiatric hospital closed in 1999.
New York State leads the nation in the use of historic tax credits, with $4.5 billion in rehabilitation costs from 2017 to 2021. Since 2011, the state tax credit program has stimulated over $12 billion in project expenditures, which, according to a federal report, generated 69,769 jobs and more than $1.3 billion in local, state and federal taxes between 2017 and 2021.
There are more than 120,000 historic properties throughout New York listed on the National Register of Historic Places, individually or as components of historic districts.
The Mirbeau Beacon project is on the agenda for the Dutchess County IDA meeting of March 22. I fully expect the DCIDA to grant preliminary approval for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement (PILOT). I have been attending DCIDA meetings for more than three years now, in person before COVID and on Zoom since.
The DCIDA has approved every project that has come up for a vote during that time period, and it’s usually unanimous. Part of the reason given for rubber stamping each project is the fact that applicants say the project will not proceed without financial assistance from the DCIDA. Of course they would say that. They have to or else they won’t get the assistance. In my opinion, in most cases, what they are seeking is to maximize their profits at taxpayer expense.
One thing I noticed when reviewing application materials posted on the DCIDA website is that Mirbeau materials differ from most of the other applications I have reviewed in that they have redacted figures in several places, for example “D. Investment (Uses and Sources)” and “E. Sources”.
By all accounts, their Rhinebeck site is successful, with room prices ranging from around $410 to $730 a night, and they did not receive DCIDA funding for that. I believe they should pay their full share of taxes. While the DCIDA board members like to tout increase in tax revenue from projects, they never say what the tax revenue would be if the applicants were forced to pay their taxes in full.
As I often state in my public hearing comments on DCIDA projects, applicants seek financial assistance in the form of tax breaks that shift the tax burden to the remaining base, leading to higher tax bills for all other residents while maximizing profits of the developers. Further, increase in property tax revenue is based on “current assessed value” and “estimated new assessed value.” However, this fails to take into consideration the fact that applicants often challenge the assessed value after project completion. When that happens, projected tax revenues end up being lower than stated.
It should also be noted that the DCIDA does not allow public comment in their meetings, only when it is required by law in the case of a public hearing.