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Town, developer deny charges that Whole Foods properties are underassessed

Town, developer deny charges that Whole Foods properties are underassessed

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In its continuing effort to oppose a grocery store project that has already won town approval, Brighton Grassroots has issued a statement this week charging that the town has undercharged the developers, Daniele Family Cos., by hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.

At the same time, a group describing itself as business owners in the area, Save Monroe Ave., filed on Friday another in a series of lawsuits to oppose the project. The suit in Monroe County Supreme Court is attempting to get the state Transportation Department to release documents the group requested under the Freedom of Information Law. The two groups have sued the town as well.

The town supervisor and the developer both said the leader of Brighton Grassroots, Brighton resident Howie Jacobson, is wrong in his assertions.

Jacobson said in a statement that when Daniele Family purchased Clover Lanes and Mamasan’s parcels to expand the footprint of their Whole Foods project, they paid a total of $9.5 million, but the town didn’t increase the properties’ assessments to reflect that new market value.

Both properties have been assessed at just one-quarter of their true value, he contends.

“This special treatment results in the Daniele Family paying less than its fair share of the real property tax burden, and forces all other town taxpayers to pay more than their fair share of taxes, effectively subsidizing the Danieles’ project,” Jacobson wrote. He asserts that the Danieles should have paid $900,000 in taxes more than they’ve been assessed over the last four years.

But Town Supervisor William Moehle said Jacobson is just wrong about the way commercial properties are assessed.

“What a developer pays on a speculative basis on a future development isn’t the fair market value,” Moehle said. “Mr. Jacobson isn’t an assessor and, of course, neither am I.”

Moehle also denied an implication of the release: “The suggestion is I somehow directed or caused this special deal.” He said he has no influence in assessments and the town assessor acts independently.

Danny Daniele, president and owner of Daniele Family Cos., responded to Jacobson’s statement by saying, “It may benefit Howie to do some research and learn that unlike residential homes, commercial land is not based on sale prices.”

Moehle said opposition to the Whole Foods project (which includes a 50,000-square-foot grocery store, a drive-through Starbucks and a number of retail businesses, including restaurants) is actually the cause of reduced revenue for the town.

“The project is estimated to generate $400,000 a year when complete. In fact, that’s what we’re losing because of this frivolous series of lawsuits,” Moehle said.

Daniele added, “Our focus is on creating a new development which will more than double those property tax revenues for the community to almost a half million dollars per year.  The sooner we build it, the sooner the community will benefit. …Perhaps Howie should focus on growing the community rather than suing it.”

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