Rochester for All calls on Imagine Monroe to turn down incentives for the Morgan Publisher Apartment project at its meeting on Tuesday.
This is a $36.5 million, 209-unit complex that would receive $3.3 million in mortgage, sales and property tax abatements. The Town of Webster has previously approved the project, as well as a PILOT agreement.
Our objections include the following:
1. Imagine Monroe didn’t provide the incentive package, including cost-benefit analysis, before today’s public hearing. We emailed Imagine Monroe for the documents, and didn’t receive a response. The public hearing notice indicates the practice is to provide the information at the hearing. This is unacceptable. The public cannot provide considered input without seeing the information in advance.
2. Although comments provided at the hearing will be read into the record at the Imagine Monroe board meeting Tuesday, citizens will not have an opportunity to speak to the board before the vote. The public comment period is at the end of the meeting. Citizens sign up 72 hours in advance, and we could not find that requirement posted on the Imagine Monroe website.
3. Robert Morgan and his company are under investigation by the FBI for loan practices. The company admitted this in a trade publication back in September. Without knowing the status of this probe, it’s inappropriate to award incentives.
4. Morgan has admitted to the Buffalo news he manipulates purchase prices of his properties in an effort to deceive tax assessors. This conduct should not be rewarded with tax incentives.
5. There should be a broader discussion about incentives for market-rate housing developments. An evaluation of the benefits should include whether there’s a demand for this housing and whether residents would otherwise leave the Rochester area. These projects generally create no permanent jobs and provide little in the form of economic development.
Webster resident and former town supervisor candidate John Hutchings spoke at today’s hearing at Webster Town Hall. During the hearing, an attorney for Morgan didn’t address the investigation. The Imagine Monroe attorney indicated the agency complies with open meeting laws.
“I am urging the Imagine Monroe board to take a step back from projects dealing with Morgan Management, and apartment complexes in general.” John Hutchings said. “This was my first time speaking at an Imagine Monroe public hearing. I was disappointed to learn I wouldn’t be able to address the entire board in person until after they vote tomorrow.”
“Imagine Monroe should post the cost-benefit analysis and application for every project on its website well before the public hearing,” said Rochester for All Chairperson Rachel Barnhart. “These incentives deserve greater scrutiny than this process allows, particularly when dealing with a Morgan project.”