In the last Legislative Hubbub, we featured a few bills related to downtown redevelopment and dilapidated buildings that were still alive and kicking after Crossover Day.
Here’s the rundown on how those bills played out during the last few weeks of the 2017 regular legislative session.
First, the good news…
SB 441 – Expanding Home Rule
Originally scheduled to terminate in 2019, the Municipal Home Rule Program is now a permanent program thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 441.
This is great news for municipalities of all sizes looking to implement innovative, local solutions to banish blight in their communities. A number of Home Rule ordinances have become statewide statutes due to their success at the local level, including vacant property registration programs.
Municipalities that were part of the pilot program can rest assured that the provisions they enacted will continue.
Perhaps more exciting, there is no longer a cap on the number of communities that may participate in the program. Any municipality that is current on its state fees is eligible to become a Home Rule community as of July 1, 2017.
In order to apply, a municipality must submit a written plan to the Municipal Home Rule Board that includes:
- The specific policies that prevent the municipality from carrying out its duties in the most cost-efficient, effective, and timely manner;
- The problems created by the policies; and
- The proposed solutions to the problems, including all proposed changes to policies.
To learn more about the Municipal Home Rule Program, check out the West Virginia Development Office’s website.
HB 2109 – Land Reuse Agencies & Municipal Land Banks
Passed late on the last day of session, House Bill 2109 amends the Land Reuse Agency Authorization Act, established in 2014 in an effort to more easily redevelop tax-delinquent property.
HB 2019 provides a “municipal land bank” — essentially an entity created by a municipality to address issues related to vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent property — with the same powers as a land reuse agency.
More importantly, the legislation grants municipal land banks and land reuse agencies with the right of first refusal — the authority to bid before the public at tax sales.
Unfortunately, the authority can only be exercised to purchase tax-delinquent property with an assessed value of less than $25,000, or tax-delinquent property that has been condemned.
The right of first refusal is an important funding stream for land banks across the country. While the legislative passage of right of first refusal in any iteration is a win, until the bill goes into effect it’s unclear how effective HB 2109 will be at providing a funding stream for municipal land banks and land reuse agencies.
And now the not-so-good…
SB 238 – Increasing Tax Credits for Certified Historic Structures
Unfortunately, Senate Bill 238, which would have increase the rate of West Virginia’s historic rehabilitation tax credit from 10 percent to 25 percent, did not complete legislation despite receiving widespread support and having strong advocates in both chambers.
The bill passed the Senate, 34 – 0, and passed the House with amendments introduced in House Finance, 90 – 8. Unfortunately, the Senate and House were unable to resolve the differences between their respective versions of the bill during a conference committee.
Our “glass half full” view is that the Revitalize West Virginia’s Downtowns Coalition has laid the groundwork to increase the historic rehab tax credit in a future legislative session.
SB 480 – Local Energy Efficiency Partnership Act (LEEP)
Another good bill that didn’t make it past Crossover Day is Senate Bill 480, which would have lowered small business’ operating costs and promoted job growth by helping to expand energy efficient businesses.
SB 480 passed the Senate unanimously, 34 – 0. However, it did not make it out of House Government Organizations.
Through the LEEP Act, local building owners would have been able to finance and complete energy efficient upgrades on their commercial buildings through a partnership with the local government and a financial institution.
While the door may have closed on the 2017 regular session, there’s always next year.
Drop me a line if you have any suggestions for legislation that should be introduced in 2018 around dilapidated buildings or downtown redevelopment.
Both the Coordinator and the VISTA will advance The Hub’s work around downtown redevelopment, dilapidated property mitigation, creative placemaking, and community-based policy.