Property owners spared from Connective Corridor fee, Syracuse Common Council votes proposal down

Property owners along the Connective Corridor will not have to pay a fee for maintenance. Syracuse Common Council votes the proposal down 6 to 1.

Property owners along the Connective Corridor can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for now.

The Syracuse Common Council voted down a proposed tax fee for businesses on the Connective Corridor at a special meeting on Thursday, 6 to 1. Two members were not present.

If the proposal passed, business owners along the corridor would have seen their tax bills increase by around $3000 to pay for maintenance. The Downtown Special Assessment District would have been expanded to include parts of East Genesee Street, University Avenue, and a portion of West Fayette Street, between Onondaga Creek and South West Street.

The majority of Councilors felt it was unfair to ask the small business owners to pay to maintain the property, when many of them didn't have a say in the decision to create the Connective Corridor in the first place.

Business owners are pleased the tax was defeated, but aren't convinced the debate is over.

"It's a short term victory, they're going to go back and rework the numbers, but what we're looking for is an equitable solution," says Dr. Jeffrey Stannard, a dentist with Specialized Dentistry, on East Genesee Street.

Property owners along the Connective Corridor would have been charged $28 per foot of road frontage to fund an annual budget of $150,000 to go toward two new employees, and a maintenance program administered by the Downtown Committee. Syracuse University would have also contributed a portion of capital money for the necessary equipment.

Dr. Stannard says under the assessment, he would have had to pay $3759, which he says is not only a significant portion of the taxes he already pays to the city, but also unfair -- considering bigger businesses that are in the area.

"Clearly, this is not the end," he says. "I mean, it's a beautiful job they did, and it must be maintained, but is it fair that myself, with a 4,000 sq. ft building be assessed almost as much as 20-story, $15 million hotel?"

Thursday's vote was the last chance for Councilors to include the fees on this year's tax rolls. Bob Dougherty was the only one to vote in favor of the fee, saying he's not sure how else maintenance would be paid for.

"The city is not in a position to pay for the maintenance of this. Frankly, we wouldn't be that good at something like this," he says. "It's going to take a couple of people to be there 7 hours a day, to work on this, not people running to the Valley or Eastwood to have to do something else."

"The good news is we probably now have more time to come up with an equitable solution for everyone. The fact that mainentance isn't going to get done for a year now, could be a bad thing. But, I think now we've had a lot of energy about this, let's harness that energy and try to come up with something everyone can live with."

For now, the City Parks Department will continue to keep up much of the Corridor.

Councilor Pat Hogan, who served as Deputy Commissioner of the Parks Department, feels the department has the resources to continue to do so.

"The Parks Department could easily, I believe maintain this corridor. They already maintain a lot of the corridor," he says. "Maybe we could ask Syracuse University, which garners the most benefit from the Connective Corridor, maybe they could chip in and help us pay some of the expenses."

Dr. Stannard says he'd be open to talk about options, to work with Common Council to find a solution, as long as he and other property owners are given enough time mull things over.

Hogan says an equitable solution has already been reached, pleased his colleagues stood up for small business owners.

"I think it's a victory for the small businesses along East Genesee Street and for small businesses across the city," he says. "In some cases, it would have doubled the tax load of some of these small businesses."