March 11 2013 12:00 AM

City Council holds public hearing on Niowave tax abatement

Monday, March 11 — Local residents either outright opposed to a personal property tax abatement for Niowave, or against it until the company fixes the façade of a 14,000-square-foot pole barn/research facility, far outnumbered those in support at tonight’s Lansing City Council meeting.

Sixteen of 18 people who spoke tonight during a public hearing believe the company does not deserve a $550,000 personal property tax abatement, or that Niowave should compromise with upset Walnut Neighborhood residents before winning Council approval. Two Niowave officials, as well as the chief of staff for the Bernero administration, spoke in favor of the abatement.

“I’m asking you to hold the leverage that you do have so that this company might come to the table and sit down with members of the community; come up with a viable resolution; begin to move; and then receive the abatements they are seeking,” the Rev. John Burns II told the Council. Burns is the pastor of St. Matthew AME Church on Maple Street, about three blocks from the pole barn.

Others, like Walnut resident Jeffrey Cole, spoke of a distrust toward the company and want the Council to vote down the abatement.

“I say call them on this bluff,” he said, referring to the company’s suggestion that it could look outside the city to expand in the future if it’s not granted the abatement. “They’re not going to abandon all of this tomorrow because you had the audacity to do what’s right for the neighborhood. We’ve heard good words tonight that perhaps there will be some meeting of the minds on this issue. If you turn around and give them this abatement, all of those good words will disappear.”

The two Niowave officials who spoke tonight — Chief Operating Officer Jerry Hollister and Chief Financial Officer Mark Sinila — pointed to the company’s success in the particle accelerator marketplace and how the company will likely expand in the future. It was suggested that the company may look elsewhere to expand should the Council vote against the tax abatement.

“We have every intention to beautify the area around our new facility and we look forward to a growing relationship with neighbors,” Hollister said. “The vote for (the abatement) has ramifications for Niowave and other businesses that want to invest in Lansing.”

The Council sent the resolution to the Committee of the Whole, which will take it up at next week’s meeting. The Council is tentatively planning on casting a final vote at its March 25 meeting.

Pick up Wednesday’s City Pulse for more on this one.