Proposed tax deal for Destiny USA hotel faces opposition from residents

Mar 18, 2016

The Urban Jobs Task Force in Syracuse, an organization fighting for more good jobs in the city, has turned its attention to Destiny USA’s proposed hotel tax deal with the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency. While the group is pleased that some community benefits have been proposed in the deal, they say it does not go far enough and infringes on another agency’s authority.

The task force said the county development agency should not be cutting deals in Syracuse because the city has its own development agency. The Syracuse Common Council has to approve of any tax deals from the city agency while the county agency does not need the approval of the Onondaga County Legislature to pass tax deals.

Aggie Lane of the Urban Jobs Task Force said they are working with students at the Syracuse University Community Development Law Clinic to try to come up with state legislation so larger industrial development agencies cannot encroach on smaller ones.

“It sort of takes away our representation," Lane said. "We voted a Common Council in and they get to decide what is the best development for our city and how to use our tax dollars.”

The Destiny shopping complex was built on a site that formerly housed fuel-storage tanks. Destiny is already receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks.

Lane said the silver lining is the Destiny tax deal with the county includes a promise of 50 percent city resident employment at the hotel and 15 percent minority and women owned business hiring for construction.

"Destiny, you've gotten so much from the city already," Lane said. "You owe it to us to do that because we've been good to you."

If Destiny does not fulfill that end of the bargain, they could pay a combined $275,000 fee to the county agency. With a tax deal worth almost $7 million, Emmanuel Flowers wonders if that payment is high enough.

“They need to know that this is a consequence that they don’t want,” Flowers said.

But the jobs task force is pleased that the money would go towards workforce development in the city. While they oppose the Destiny tax deal, they do want this model replicated for future projects.

"It's a beginning, take that model and run with it," Lane said. "We're tired of all the money that's been going to developers and not enough for the people."

A public hearing on the county tax deal will be held on Friday, March 25.