Sterling (WSYR-TV) - The Cayuga County Industrial Development Agency is ready to drop the PILOT agreement it has with the owner of the Sterling Renaissance Festival. The move would mean the property hosting the festival would go back on the tax rolls.
We’re told the festival owner has not made scheduled payments to the county, the town of Sterling or the Hannibal School District – totaling more than $27,000.
For over 30 years the festival has transformed a quiet area of northern Cayuga County into an English renaissance village. Not only does it attract thousands of visitors each year, it brings a whole community of actors and vendors in for a six week run.
“Our community lives and dies on our recreational tourism. It is a huge part of it,” said Sterling Town Supervisor, Lonni Palmieri. “Losing them would be significant, would be catastrophic,” Palmieri continued.
The town of Sterling only gets a small part of the $27,000 in back PILOT payments due to the county, town and school, but it gets a lot from the festival itself.
Palmieri says Sterling triples in size when the festival is running.
“What has been done I don’t think guarantees there’s going to be any negative impact to the festival at this point. I hope it resumes and continues. I don’t think it means it’s going to end,” explained Cayuga County Legislator, Tucker Whitman.
Whitman says pulling the PILOT is the final step after several the county has already taken. Owner Doug Waterbury by phone wouldn’t say why he was behind on the payments, but did say he expects to have the festival this summer and everything is fine.
"I'm hoping the owner will find a way to pay his bills and continue the festival for the long term,” Palmieri said.
Palmieri says the festival has put Sterling on the map and she wants to keep it that way.
Festival owners were granted the PILOT agreement when they bought the property back in 2008.