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Suffolk IDA grants tax exemptions to Siena Village developer

Board members from the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency and Suffolk's Economic Development Corp. granted final approval Thursday for tax exemptions and the issuance of tax-exempt bonds to a developer that plans to purchase and renovate a low-income senior apartment complex in Smithtown.

The seven-member IDA board voted 6-0, with one absence, to approve up to $606,225 in sales and mortgage recording tax exemptions to Siena Investors LLC -- an affiliate of California-based GHC Housing Partners. The board also approved a 30-year payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, structure that would yield a total of more than $18 million in revenue to various taxing districts such as school, county and town.

Siena Village -- a complex of 20 buildings and 299 apartments at 2000 Bishops Rd. -- does not generate property taxes because it is owned by the not-for-profit Catholic Health Services, which is exempt from real property taxes and also owns St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center.

Siena Investors plans to buy Siena Village from Catholic Health Services for $62 million, as part of an estimated $90 million project. The seven-member EDC board voted 6-0, with one absence, to issue tax-exempt bonds for the purchase and to grant a $651,000 mortgage recording tax exemption on those bonds.

"We're pleased this key piece of the financing has been unanimously approved and look forward to closing on the project and commencing renovations as quickly as possible," R.J. Miller, GHC's senior vice president of acquisitions and development, said Thursday in an interview, adding that the company planned to be "very long-term owners."

Anthony Giordano, an IDA and EDC board member, said Thursday that he supported the application because proceeds from the deal help keep St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center "alive and vibrant," maintain the 9.5 jobs at the site and keep families in their homes, in addition to the more than $18 million in PILOT revenue.

"I think it was a win-win all the way," he said.

Paul Rowland, St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center's chief administrative officer and executive vice president, said in a written statement that he was pleased by the approvals.

"This is good news for the community and the tenants and will help maintain the character of the Section 8, low-income senior housing facility," he said.

Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), a critic of the application, was the only person who spoke at a Monday public hearing on the project. According to a transcript from the hearing, Trotta said he didn't think it was the responsibility of taxpayers "to subsidize the private real estate transaction" and thought Siena Investors should "be paying mortgage tax that anyone in my legislative district who buys a house . . . has to pay."

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