The State Senate and Assembly have passed legislation that will facilitate Definity Health Insurance’s move to a new business park in the Town of Tonawanda, the sponsors of the measure announced today.
Senator Mary Lou Rath and Assemblyman Robin Schimminger said that their legislation enabling the town to construct a municipal access road into the new Colvin Woods Business Park where Definity Health will permanently locate has won approval by both houses of the State Legislature. The Tonawanda Town Board requested that the town’s two representatives in Albany introduce and pass the state legislation.
Assemblyman Schimminger said, "When Town of Tonawanda officials approached us with a request to authorize the town to create a special highway improvement district in order to construct a road that would provide access to Definity Health’s future home in Tonawanda, we were eager to be of help. 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 recently announced plans 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 back to Tonawanda once Definity moves into the town. The state has just approved the town’s proposed amendment to its Empire Zone boundaries to include the Definity building and several other parcels in the Colvin Woods development, located along the Youngmann Highway midway between Colvin Boulevard and Delaware Avenue. However, the site is largely landlocked and could only be reached from a residential street off Colvin.
After discussions with the developer of Colvin Woods, Ciminelli Development Company, the town agreed to construct an access road connecting the site directly to Colvin Boulevard along the northern edge of Kenney Field, a town recreation area adjacent to the business park, and will issue a bond to finance the road and related infrastructure work. In turn, a special town improvement district encompassing the business park will be established and the commercial property owners in the improvement district, who would derive the benefits from the road and other improvements, will pay annual assessments to the town that will be used to pay off the bond over several years.
"The highway improvement district authorized by our legislation, 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 will provide area residents with improved and safer access to Kenney Field’s recreation facilities. Rather than having to park along busy Colvin Boulevard or Brighton Road, families will now be able to park along the new, less-trafficked roadway and in the new cul-de-sac parking area to be built in the northwest corner of Kenney Field."
Schimminger and Rath noted that since the town road will be situated just inside the limits of Kenney Field, the legislation also had to address the use of parkland for an unrelated purpose, even though the town is retaining title to the land on which the roadway will be constructed. As with every other similar parkland alienation approved by the Legislature, the town has committed to dedicate funding, equal to the value of the 50 by 1,000 foot strip of land where the road will be situated, for park and recreation improvements in Kenney Field or elsewhere in the town.
"We are excited to work with town officials to help cement the Definity Health project and increase 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 game or other activities at Kenney Field," concluded Rath and Schimminger.
The legislation now goes to the Governor for his anticipated approval.