CIITAP

Overview

From the city’s description of CIITAP in its current form:

The Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement Program (CIITAP) is a property tax abatement program that allows property owners to apply for abatement for a portion of their property taxes for a period of up to 7 years. … In conjunction with the goals of the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan, the objective of CIITAP is to encourage development in the City that increase jobs, increase the tax base, promote density in the city core, encourage rehabilitation and redevelopment of underutilized sites, and help create a vibrant downtown center.

A brief history

From Seph Murtagh:

We’re currently in the process of revising the city’s tax abatement policy, the awkwardly named “Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement program,” or CIITAP. This program, which has gone through a few different versions since its inception in 2001, is meant to encourage high-density, mixed-use development in Ithaca’s downtown core – the opposite of the sort of big box sprawl that we see along Route 13.

The thinking is that this kind of development is beneficial for the community because it reduces sprawl and encourages alternate modes of transportation by concentrating people in the core of Ithaca, close to jobs, places of business, and public transportation. It’s also good for the tax base – for instance, several of the projects built under the first iteration of the policy (Seneca Place, Island Health and Fitness, Cayuga Green, and a few others) are now reaching the end of their abatement period and are spinning off significant revenues for the city. This helps us to pay for things like police, fire, youth services, etc.

Why does the incentive program exist? Because building in downtown is extremely costly. Of all the major developments built in downtown Ithaca over the last twenty years not a single one was built without some form of assistance. Developers who want to build downtown are looking to fill a gap in their funding. The intention of the tax abatement program, then, is to encourage developers to locate downtown and to discourage them from seeking locations outside the city where construction is much cheaper.

But the policy is not without criticism, and some have argued that it should be revised to encourage additional community goals, such as a living wage, local labor, and energy sustainability. These concerns raise some important questions. When considering the types of projects that should receive abatements, is a downtown location and an increase in tax revenue enough of a community benefit in its own right? Or should we be requiring other benefits as well? If so, what are they, and how do we go about prioritizing them? And at what point does a project become so overloaded with requirements that the incentive is no longer worth it and a developer walks away?

Over the last few months, a working group led by Alderwoman Ellen McCollister has been reviewing the CIITAP policy and has prepared some recommendations. This is probably the best overview of the proposed changes.

Planning and Economic Development Committee Meeting
February 10, 2016

Agenda to come

Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting
January 13, 2016

Discussed proposed CIITAP amendments. Requires further discussion. For time being, sent local labor reporting requirements to Council.

Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting
November 19, 2015

Meeting agenda includes proposed amendments to CIITAP proposal. Media coverage of the meeting here.

CIIP becomes CIITAP
November 7, 2012

Council approves a set of changes to CIIP making it less onerous (media coverage)

CIIP Adopted
September 5, 2007

Council adopts Community Incentive Investment Program (CIIP)