Governor Signs Schimminger- Rath Law to Aid Definity Health & Colvin Woods Projects

August 23, 2004

Governor George Pataki has signed into law legislation that will facilitate Definity Health Insurance’s move into the new Colvin Woods Business Park in the Town of Tonawanda, the sponsors of the measure announced today.

Senator Mary Lou Rath and Assemblyman Robin Schimminger said that the new law they shepherded through the State Legislature will enable the town to construct a municipal access road into the new business park where Definity Health will permanently locate. The Tonawanda Town Board requested that the town’s two representatives in Albany introduce and pass the needed state authorizing legislation.

Assemblyman Schimminger said, "Approval of our legislation by the Governor will enable the town to proceed with plans to create a special highway improvement district in order to construct a road that will provide access to Definity Health’s future home in Tonawanda. Definity will bring more than 600 jobs to Tonawanda when its new building in Colvin Woods Business Park is completed, and that’s terrific news for our community."

Senator Rath said, "Definity Health’s investment represents another tremendous boost for the Western New York economy and especially for the Town of Tonawanda. The cooperation between state and local officials on this project, from the months of groundwork preceding the official announcement in March to this final piece of the puzzle, is another good example of how the private sector and government at all levels can work cooperatively and is an indication of more good news to come."

The Minneapolis-based health insurer announced plans in March to open a service center in Western New York, and will temporarily locate its operations in Amherst until the company’s new $10.3 million facility in Tonawanda is built. As part of a state and local economic development incentive package, Tonawanda Empire Zone benefits will be temporarily "loaned" to Amherst, but will revert to Tonawanda when Definity moves into the town once its Colvin Woods building is completed. Several parcels in the Colvin Woods development, including Definity’s building, recently have been included within the town’s Empire Zone.

Because the site is largely landlocked and could only be reached either via an industrial roadway slated to be removed to make way for two planned commercial buildings or from a residential street off Colvin Boulevard, the town will construct an access road connecting the business park directly to Colvin along the northern edge of Kenney Field, a town recreation area adjacent to a portion of the development. In turn, a special town improvement district encompassing the business park will be established and the commercial property owners in the improvement district, who will derive the benefits from the road and other improvements, will pay annual assessments to the town that will be used to pay off the construction bond over several years. Also, pursuant to the state legislation, the town will dedicate funding for improvements at Kenney Field or at park and recreation areas elsewhere in the town equal to the assessed value of the strip of Kenney Field property being used for the roadway.

"The highway improvement district authorized by our new state law, and unanimously requested by the Town Board via a ‘home rule message,’ will limit the town to assessing only those parcels in the development for the cost of the road, rather than having property tax payers townwide foot the bill," the legislators explained. "In addition, the roadway and a new parking area for Kenney Field will provide area residents with improved and safer access to the recreation area’s facilities."

"We are glad to have been of help to the town in cementing the Definity Health project and increasing the prospects for attracting even more investment and jobs to Tonawanda, while protecting town taxpayers and making it easier and safer for families and kids to enjoy a youth football or soccer game or other activities at Kenney Field," concluded Schimminger and Rath. "This kind of partnership between state and local officials is critical to improving our region’s economy."

The legislation takes effect immediately.