Proposed tax-credit bill could spur downtown Aberdeen

While tax credits for historic property like those proposed in House Bill 2868 can help sweeten a deal, legislation alone won’t rebuild Aberdeen’s downtown, according to Wil Russoul, executive director of the Downtown Aberdeen Association.

“It’s important, but it’s only one tool in our Batman tool belt,” he said.

The bill would extend the current 10-year period for special property tax valuation of historical properties for two seven-year periods for a maximum of 24 years.

New businesses coming in will also be key, because they attract other new businesses, he said.

It’s problematic when investors buy buildings as tax shelters and sit on them, according to Russoul.

“They’re letting the buildings decay. That means it’s going to cost more to get that building brought back to life,” he said.

Besides that, the pride of the community is at stake, he added.

“The buildings don’t just represent commerce, they represent a community. They tie people to the downtown and give them a sense of place,” he said.

“We could tear the buildings down and build new ones like other cities, but then where is Aberdeen? It’s gone,” he said.

According to Grays Harbor County Commissioner Randy Ross, who spoke in favor of the bill at the hearing last Friday, there are 162 properties in the county that would be eligible for the tax credit and some of them are already near the 10-year limit and could benefit from the bill’s seven-year extensions.

The bill is sponsored by Reps. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, and Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen.