The Legislature’s House Committee on Finance held a public hearing Friday for a bill that could bring increased investment in historical properties on the Harbor.
House Bill 2868 is an amendment to the Special Valuation Tax Credit of 1985, which provides tax credits to developers who buy and renovate historic buildings. The bill would extend the current 10-year period for special property tax valuation of historical properties to a maximum of 24 years.
The bill is sponsored by Reps. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, and Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen.
Grays Harbor County Commissioner Randy Ross spoke in favor of the bill, saying it’s important because it would give small communities enough time to see results that would promote growth around historic properties. The bill limits tax credits to properties that are located in “distressed areas” as reported by the state employment security department, and cities under 20,000 in population. The cities that qualify now for the credit are Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Centralia, Chehalis, Dayton, Kettle Falls, Ritzville and Shelton with Colville expected to be added soon.
According to Ross, 162 properties in Grays Harbor would be eligible for the tax credit and some of them are already near the 10-year limit of the current credit.
“They haven’t had time to recoup their investments,” he said.
Wil Russoul, Executive Director of the Downtown Aberdeen Association, said the bill could help development of historical buildings in Aberdeen such as the Morck building, the Becker Building and the Electric Building.
“People bought our buildings and are sitting on them,” Russoul said.
He said people drive though downtown and see all the old buildings and in a couple years they won’t see them anymore if something isn’t done.
“Our economic floor really hasn’t moved yet,” he said.
Building owner Paul Metke, who owns the old Masonic Temple building at 200 E. Heron St., which houses the Grand Heron home furnishing store, said the tax credit is tremendous and he’d like to extend it past 10 years.
“Aberdeen’s gonna shine again,” he said.
Local business owner Tara Mareth said Aberdeen’s downtown core hasn’t changed much and that it needs something to help create investment.
“We can’t keep knocking our history down,” she said.