A bill introduced by local lawmakers and supported by downtown Aberdeen advocates was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday, allowing for the 10-year special valuation of historic properties to be extended to a maximum of 24 years.
The bill, sponsored by Reps. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen and Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, could help towns like Aberdeen and Hoquiam find buyers for its historic buildings, give them time to restore them and to recoup their investments.
“It is my hope that this bill will be one more tool our cities can use to encourage investment downtown,” said Blake.
“This is a fine example of our legislative people working together when they have our community interest at heart,” said Wil Russoul, director of the Downtown Aberdeen Association. Thursday’s signing was the result of an effort that began in 2018 when stakeholders made a decision to do something to save Aberdeen’s historic downtown buildings, he said.
The new law will extend tax credits to properties in distressed areas as reported by the Employment Security Department, and cities under 20,000 in population. In addition to Aberdeen and Hoquiam, cities that qualify include Centralia, Chehalis, Dayton, Kettle Falls, Ritzville and Shelton.
The next step for the downtown association after business returns to normal will be to set up a training event for commercial real estate brokers, building owners, prospective buyers and city administrators, Russoul said.
“The Historic Preservation Commission will come out to explain the law, assist and encourage private owners to take advantage of the tax advantages for the preservation of our historic properties, he said.
The legislation grandfathers in any existing property that has already qualified for the special tax valuation and there’s a 10-year sunset, so the time for property owners to apply or extend is now, Russoul said.
Russoul hopes that added tax incentives and the North Shore Levee Project that would take much of downtown out of a FEMA flood zone will create opportunities for investment in downtown Aberdeen.