Car wash seeks $300K in tax relief

The Enterprise — Michael Koff 

On Tuesday night, the Guilderland Industrial Development Agency will consider an application from Richard and Sandra Hameroff, who plan to build a car wash here on Western Avenue, across from Market 32 and SEFCU, and want about $300,000 in tax relief.

GUILDERLAND — A couple planning to build a car wash on Route 20 are seeking about $300,000 in tax relief for the project.

The town has approved the project at 2123 Western Ave., across from Market 32 and SEFCU, and Richard and Sandra Hameroff have now applied to the Guilderland Industrial Development Agency for tax relief. They plan to build a 190-foot express car-wash tunnel with 24 vacuum stations.

The Hameroffs also own Broadway Auto Clinic at 3 Wolfert Ave. in Menands, which is an auto-repair shop with a small car wash.

A report submitted with their application says net financial benefits of the project would total $5.7 million.

The IDA will meet on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. in the town-board room of the town hall to consider the application. The meetings of the IDA are open to the public, but they are not videotaped or televised. 

Industrial Development Agencies, part of a program New York State started nearly a half-century ago, are meant to spur economic development and job creation through tax exemptions and bond financing.

Hamerco LLC is requesting that the IDA grant it relief from $260,000 in sales and compensating-use taxes, and from $55,262.50 in mortgage-recording taxes. 

Donald Csaposs, the chief executive officer of the IDA, told The Enterprise this week that the $260,000 represents 8 percent of $3,250,000 in anticipated qualified expenses necessary to build the project. 

The amount of mortgage-recording tax requested in the application is incorrect, Csaposs said; the maximum that can be waived in this case would be 1 percent of the $4,430,000 mortgages, or $44,300. This would make the total that Hamerco is requesting $304,300.

The difference between those two amounts, Csaposs said, is the portion of the mortgage-recording tax that must be paid to the local mass-transit agency — in this case, Capital District Transportation Authority — and that cannot, according to state law, be waived. 

The Hameroffs were successful, in January, in seeing the parcels where they want to build rezoned for general business, which would allow the land to be used as a car wash with a special-use permit. In June, they were granted the special-use permit, as well as a variance for setbacks.

Environmental benefits claimed

The IDA application argues that this car wash will make available services that would not otherwise be reasonably accessible to residents of the town. It states, “Modern car wash technology that protects the environment through water conservation and reclamation is not available. Existing commercial facilities are older and not as eco-friendly. Home car washing allows cleansers and pollutants to enter soil and aquifer.” 

The car washes closest to the proposed new one are Colonial Car Wash, two miles east at 1769 Western Ave. in Guilderland, and a Hoffman’s further away, at 1769 Central Ave. in Colonie.

Stewart’s Shops plans to build a convenience store with gas pumps and a one-bay automated car wash at Route 155 and Corporate Circle Drive, partly in the town of Guilderland and partly in the city of Albany; this site, seven-tenths of a mile from Hameroff’s proposed car wash, will be leased from Stewart’s by a car-wash operator. 

Tyler Fronte of Stewart’s said that the car wash there will reuse rejected water.

The Enterprise left a message with Colonial Car Wash to ask whether its car washes use modern technology to conserve and reclaim water, but did not receive a call back before press time. 

Tom Hoffman, chief executive officer of Hoffman Car Wash, said he believes that Stewart’s is partnering on that project with Clean2o, which owns a number of “touchless” automated car washes in the area. An email to Clean2o was not immediately returned. 

Hoffman said that it is possible to purchase recycling equipment that allows a car wash to reclaim as much as half of the water it uses. Hoffman Car Wash has done that in its newest locations, he said. “We use it ... to blast all the sand and mud off the car before it goes through the wash process,” he said.

Hoffman Car Wash also has an extensive system in its Queensbury location, Hoffman said, that uses bacteria to eat organics — soaps and waxes — from the wash process. “The bacteria colony is exactly like a sewer-treatment plant,” he said, allowing reuse of about half the water. 

“But it’s extremely expensive to buy this equipment,” Hoffman said. “And the reality in the Northeast is there’s such an abundance of fresh water that it really is cost-prohibitive, I think, to use systems like that. We can get a better quality car — a cleaner, drier car — using more fresh water and less recycled water.” 

Hoffman emphasized that commercial car washes are good for the environment because smaller nozzles than on home hoses conserve water, and the water that leaves a car wash is treated by its municipality and then reused. He contrasted this with washing cars at home, where soapy water can run down the driveway and into storm drains that are, he said, intended for rainwater; that water then goes into streams and rivers untreated and pollutes the environment. 

Hameroff, speaking of his Guilderland proposal, said that the other existing car washes nearby were built years ago and that technology has improved since then. “What we’re doing is all of the most modern technology that’s available to conserve water,” he said. 

He said his car wash would conserve water and also reclaim and reuse more than half of the water it uses. “That’s a very substantial amount,” he said, adding that he cares about the environment and that his Broadway Auto Clinic has 400 solar panels and generates more electricity than it uses. 

The new Guilderland car wash would also use variable frequency drives, which Hameroff explained are devices that start electric motors more slowly rather than delivering an inrush of power when they are first turned on.

This is meant to conserve energy and, like the other energy-conserving measures he will use, to also lower his operating costs, he said, and make the business more successful. In another example, he said that heat for the car wash in winter would be provided by a “modulating boiler that only uses what you need.”  

Csaposs said that an evaluation was done of the environmental “friendliness” of the equipment that the Hameroffs propose using. It was conducted, Csaposs said, by Guilderland’s superintendent of water and wastewater, Timothy McIntyre, and by Delaware Engineering, the town-designated engineer appointed to review the project.

They determined that the rate of recapture, reuse, and on-site retention of water in the project met the standards that were required with the rezone of the property.

Financial benefits claimed 

The car wash will bring nine new jobs, the application says. 

The Hameroffs’ IDA application estimates the total cost of the car-wash project at $5.5 million. It says that the project is expected to be built by April 2020. 

To date, the developers have spent $220,000 for architecture, engineering, legal and financing services, utilities, surveys, and permits, according to the application. 

The Hameroffs are in contract to close on purchasing the three-acre property from the Becker Family Trust, the IDA application says. All the buildings on the site — which include a single-family home converted to a photo studio, a single-family home, and a carriage house — will be demolished. 

The Hameroffs plan to lease the car wash to its operator, Noahfox, LLC, doing business as Western Car Wash. The address of Noahfox is the same as for the Broadway Auto Clinic. The lease would be for 20 years, the application says. 

The application says that the nine jobs the car wash would create would include two professional or managerial positions, with an annual salary of $40,000 to $50,000 each; one skilled job, at $30,000 annually; and six semi-skilled posts at $15/hour.  

Richard Hameroff had told The Enterprise earlier that he and his wife wanted to build this car wash for the sake of the family’s future and for their sons. The Enterprise asked if the two managerial jobs would go to their sons.

“No, they’re going to college for something completely different,” he said, adding that his sons are fiercely independent and would not want to work for him. He called the car wash his “baby,” and said that, at 52, he was far from retirement, although perhaps “many, many years in the future” his sons might take it over from him. 

The application says that the $5.5 million in estimated project costs will be covered by $1.07 million in equity and $4.43 million in private-sector financing from Berkshire Bank. 

The costs of the project will include $827,000 in improvements to the intersection, the application says. Driveways will be combined for a yet-to-be-built bank, the car wash, and the currently existing New York State Nurses Association. The new shared driveway on the north side of Route 20 will line up with the access road to Market 23 and the State Employees Federal Credit Union, both on the south side of Route 20, changing the intersection from a T configuration into a four-way intersection. 

A report from Camoin Associates to the IDA about the project states, “Our evaluation finds that over a period of five years, the net financial benefits of the project, including net new real property taxes, the value of the intersection improvements, construction and permanent payroll, and income taxes, are approximately $5.7 million.

“This significantly exceeds the estimated $315,000 value of the financial assistance requested. The savings from the requested financial assistance is nevertheless essential for a small, locally-owned business enterprise, particularly because it is provided at project startup, prior to the generation of operating revenue.”

Currently, employees of and visitors to the New York State Nurses Association have trouble exiting that agency and turning left toward Albany, according to the IDA application and the Camoin Associates report. The rebuilt intersection will make it easier and safer for cars to do that, by adding another leg to the intersection, which currently has just three. 

If tax exemptions are approved, this sale/leaseback agreement would make the IDA the “paper owner,” which would then lease the car wash back to the developer.

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