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Syracuse council considers tightening tax exemption law some say is being exploited

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
The Syracuse Common Council.

Syracuse common councilors are reviewing a change to a property tax exemption that some say, is being exploited by developers. The amendment is meant to tighten the exemption. 

Section 485-a of New York State’s Real Property Tax Law, allows a 12-year partial exemption to the increased assessed value of a property, when a non-residential property is converted to a mix of residential and commercial uses.

At a council study session last week, Councilor Tim Rudd said it has probably done a lot of good over the past 10 years to build density downtown.

“And it has also been gamed by developers who use the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law, to do a project that is not truly mixed use," Rudd said. "Those buildings do feel different, and they don’t feel worthy of the level of break.”

Councilors point to Syracuse.com articles that question whether some newer luxury student apartment complexes near Syracuse University, have taken advantage of the exemption by not really being a converted building or having any commercial use.

The goal of the amendment, councilors say, is to clarify the language in the exemption.

The new qualifications on the local level, would require 15% of the mixed-use building to be commercial and 60% of the existing building would have to be retained, for it to be considered a conversion.

The amendment is expected to be voted on in two weeks.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.