One way to take a measure of the economic health of our local economy is to take a look at whether property assessments are going up or down.
As we mentioned in last week’s column, after several years of going down, that downward trend is slowing and the assessed value in 2016 (which will be used this year in paying our 2017 taxes) is slightly up.
In 2016 the overall real and personal property assessed value of the county’s 67,562 parcels was $5,894,644,876. That’s up from $5,835,628,957 in 2015.
“Yes, we are finally not decreasing as a county,” said Grays Harbor County Assessor Dan Lindgren.
We found out that tidbit and many more during a recent conversation with Lindgren.
Assessor Lindgren had some other interesting perspectives on our county that we will share today and in future columns. Also, we will be passing along some information on various property tax reduction programs that are available in certain situations.
WHERE THE MARKET IS HOT
Ocean Shores leads the county in new construction and Seabrook, just up the road, continues its steady growth, Lindgren said.
The other main area where property and houses are in demand is East County, he said.
“McCleary has really become a bedroom community to Olympia. We’re seeing growth in Elma and the Montesano housing market has a lot more potential buyers than sellers right now,” he said.
While things aren’t exactly hopping right now in Aberdeen and Hoquiam, Lindgren said that the concentrated efforts to tackle the flooding issue – and therefore the required flood insurance in some areas – will make a great difference.
“If you kill flood insurance, I guarantee you will see an increase in value in those areas of Aberdeen and Hoquiam. It has a huge effect.”
Right now owner occupants aren’t buying in the current flood plain or even fixing up houses because of the prohibitively expensive flood insurance costs.
In some cases due to building requirements in flood zones, the City may require that a home be raised 4 feet above the flood plain if a homeowner plans to make repairs equaling more than one-half the assessed value, Lindgren explained. This requirement can sometimes make homeowners financially unable to make the repairs.
Once the flooding is addressed Lindgren said, ”Not only will we see more purchases and investments in those areas, but I think we may see more of a trend toward owner-occupied houses there, which typically means an increase in pride of ownership which then translates into people caring more for their homes.”
Even the “little” things matter in improving a community and increasing the desirability and the value of property in our cities and counties, he said.
“I’ve seen a lot of effort to make improvements such as downtown decorations, flowers, sidewalks and lighting. It’s a domino effect. Anything you can do as a city to attract businesses or attract people will end up attracting more business and more people,” he said.
“And any effort that a city or individual homeowner can do to make a positive difference, benefits us all.”
One example of that is the soon-to-be built Grays Harbor County Gateway Center in Aberdeen, he said.
In this last year or so several new businesses have come to the area with others headed this direction soon, he said. Here are some highlights:
• The Wendy’s restaurant that recently opened in Aberdeen.
• The Tractor Supply Company that created a home for itself in the former Top Foods grocery store at the Olympic Gateway Plaza (formerly the Wishkah Mall.)
• The Extreme Fun Center that opened up at the Shoppes at Riverside (formerly the SouthShore Mall).
• The beautiful new Twin County Credit Union being constructed in Aberdeen.
• The Arby’s Restaurant, which is expected to begin construction in downtown Aberdeen soon.
• The Little Caesars Restaurant planning to come to Aberdeen.
• A new brewery taking over the corner spot at Wishkah and Broadway in Aberdeen.
• The TESLA Charger Station in downtown Aberdeen near the future Gateway Center.
• The many marijuana growing, processing and retail businesses throughout the county – about 25 in all – including a huge one at the Satsop Business Park and in Humptulips.
• Express Natural Gas (XNG) at the Satsop Business Park.
• The Overstock.com’s call center currently moving into the Satsop Business Park (and bringing an estimated 150 jobs!).
• The new Burger King at the recently developed Eagles Landing in Elma, with the developer planning to bring in more businesses soon.
• An expansion of Summit Pacific Hospital in Elma.
• The construction of a new Summit Pacific Wellness Center in McCleary.
• The renewal of a former restaurant – Savory Faire in Montesano with a new location.
• And, the creation of a brand new restaurant – The Fishing Hole right off the highway in Montesano.
• In Westport, after a tragic fire burned a beloved venue, it has been rebuilt into an even bigger Cranberry Road Winery and Bog Water Brewing Company building.
• Bustling Seabrook continues to grow and has quite a few new businesses that have recently opened in its downtown.
CONTACT THE ASSESSOR
In the next few weeks, we’ll be writing about many aspects of the Assessor’s Office and your property’s value. If you want more information about your assessment or any duties of the Assessor’s Office, take a look at the Grays Harbor County website at www.co.grays-harbor.wa.us or call the Assessor’s Office at 249-4121. You will always get a live person during person hours.