Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2018

‘Opportunity zone’ created in Washington

Mar 14, 2018

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL

Recently the Washington City Council endorsed the submission of two tracts of land in an application for “Opportunity Zone” designation, which offers tax incentives for investments.

During the March 6 meeting, Washington Economic Development Group (WEDG) director Ed Raber approached the council with the tracts, which were labeled “southern Washington east of Highway 1,” and “northern Washington east of Highway 1.” Mayor Jaron Rosien said that because the city was applying for both zones, it was necessary for the city to prioritize one of the zones. He said it is possible the city would receive both, but that the more important be determined. During discussion the council approved the north side as the priority.

“The business park and the downtown would be in the southern zone,” Rosien said. “The Wellness Park and the YMCA would be in the northern zone.”

Raber said the census tracts are ones that are eligible for new market tax credits. He said according to this program no part of Washington had been eligible until October 2017. He said it is a new program and there is little information on the benefits that will come with the designation.

“There is not much of an outline of what opportunity zone benefits may be because I don’t think Brent (Hinson) or I know,” Raber said. “This may end up not being a thing. There are programs the state or federal governments start that don’t end up being too much. That is only in hindsight and you can’t tell that on the front end.”

He said the program is something the Trump administration had put in the tax reform bill and will unfold later.

Rosien said according to the resolution the council voted on, the southern area was named as the main area.

“We submit this to the state and they pick up to 60 census tracts, there is a total of 239 eligible, and it is unlikely that all 239 will be organized to apply for this with a few weeks’ notice,” Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson said. “Our chances are probably better than one in four of getting selected.”

While he said they didn‘t know what benefit there would be, he was concerned the city could potentially miss a benefit by not applying.

Council member Steve Gault commented that there is a massive brown field area on the north side of town that needed attention. Council member Brendon DeLong also said he liked the north side better.

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