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Batavia sticks by grants for downtown

Updated: February 19, 2013 2:22PM

BATAVIA — The city appears to be committed to the façade and downtown improvement grant programs.

“We are not going to bring the programs to a halt — there are nine aldermen here in favor of keeping them going,” Alderman David Brown told a businessman interested in the grant assistance programs this week.

The Community Development Committee directed staff to review the grant assistance programs with representatives from the Batavia Chamber of Commerce and Batavia MainStreet and report back with a final recommendation for funding changes.

The city’s administrative staff in August began an analysis of the validity of awarding exterior and interior building improvement grants to downtown property owners and businesses after hearing criticism from some aldermen.

The programs are funded through tax increment financing districts in the downtown.

Aldermen originally critical of the programs said they didn’t see the value of awarding funds to property owners for “build out” purposes and suggested it might be more beneficial for the city as a whole to fund streetscape improvements.

Other aldermen, meanwhile, said the programs demonstrate the city is supportive of downtown growth.

“Streetscape improves the physical appearance of the downtown, but it doesn’t touch the buildings that potential investors look at,” Assistant City Administrator Jason Bajor told aldermen.

“It would be a shame if we turned our back on it.”

Bajor said changes were recommended to spread out the resources to more applicants.

“We are saying to downtown Batavia we want it developed,” Bajor said.

Bajor said they have had to explain to businesses interested in applying for the grants that the city was having a dialogue over the scope of the programs.

A business owner approached aldermen, saying he was looking to open a retail store in downtown Batavia but that he has been on hold for two months waiting to see if the city would resume the grant assistance.

“I am getting to a point where I need to make a decision,” he told aldermen. “As a business owner, I am proud of Batavia and want to move my business and my son’s business to Batavia. The grants will potentially break or make my decision. I hope you come to a quick resolution.”

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