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No opposition to sales tax abatement for Atlantis Holdings

Representatives of Atlantis Holdings, which owns the Long Island Aquarium and the Hyatt hotel in downtown Riverhead, sought to make a case that they have benefited the downtown area and have paid their share of taxes during a public hearing Monday before the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency.

Other than the applicant, no one spoke at the hearing on Atlantis Holdings’ request for exemptions from sales taxes on construction materials and “use” taxes for two upcoming projects estimated to cost a combined $4.3 million.

The IDA scheduled a special meeting for Monday, Jan. 14, at 4 p.m., at which it may vote on the request.

If approved, the exemption would save Atlantis Holdings less than $300,000 in sales tax over the two years anticipated for the projects, according to general manager Bryan DeLuca. There would be no impact on property taxes, such as school or town taxes.

The first project includes the purchase and implementation of a combined heat and power unit, absorption chiller and cooling tower for the aquarium tanks, along with energy-efficient pumps and other repairs.

The second project involves renovation of the guest rooms and lobby at the hotel and the catering facility in the Sea Star Ballroom.

While Atlantis has received, and continues to receive, significant IDA property tax abatements, Mr. DeLuca and attorney Ellen Bissett DeRiggi stressed that Atlantis does pay taxes and has been an “economic engine” for downtown Riverhead.

Ms. DeRiggi pointed out that when Atlantis bought the property from Riverhead Town in 1998, the two town-owned parcels generated $919 in property taxes for 1999. It now comprises four parcels that contribute $357,474 in property taxes, she said.

Part of the agreement the town made when it sold the land to Atlantis was that the IDA would provide assistance to Atlantis and that the town would provide additional parking for the aquarium, the latter of which did not happen.

Atlantis also pays $90,000 per year to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, which rescues stranded sea mammals and turtles, and provides space for them at the aquarium, Ms. DeRiggi said.

“We are the economic generator the town expected us to be,” Mr. DeLuca said. “The economic impact of day-trippers is $60 per day and, based on our attendance, this equals $15 million per year pumped into the economy by our aquarium operations.” 

When overnight visitors are factored in, he added, that number jumps to $30 million per year.

The Hyatt also pays about $130,000 per year in county hotel and motel tax, which funds East End Arts, Suffolk County Historical Society and parks and tourism, he said. Atlantis also pays about $240,000 per year in sales tax for goods and services, and pays town special district property taxes, such as water and sewer district hookups, of about $357,000 per year.

In January 2016, the IDA voted to give Atlantis an additional 10-year partial property tax abatement on school, town, county and fire district taxes. It had received a similar abatement previously, but still pays full property taxes on special districts.

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