Lacey City Council set to discuss multifamily tax exemption for Woodland District

Lacey City Council is having a public hearing next month on a multifamily development tax exemption for the city’s Woodland District after the council approved a resolution Thursday night that set that next step in motion.

The public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18, which will make for a busy night in council chambers because the council also is expected to adopt its 2015 budget.

Although the council has yet to approve the multifamily tax exemption, it likely will win support because the exemption is viewed as a key component of a plan developed by the city, with comments from the community and a steering committee, called the Woodland District Strategic Plan.

That plan was created as a guide for how the city might develop the district into a dynamic, mixed-use destination and make it more of a true downtown for Lacey.

The Woodland District is the area bordered by the Chehalis-Western Trail, Interstate 5, Pacific Avenue and College Street.

Within the district are landmarks such as South Sound Center, Fred Meyer, Huntamer Park and several mostly vacant office buildings along Woodland Square Loop, which is near the park.

But it’s also about to become home to the new Lacey campus of South Puget Sound Community College, which will relocate from Hawks Prairie to the former Rowe Six office complex on Sixth Avenue. Construction there is underway.

The district has capacity for more multifamily development or redevelopment. It is home to 150 multifamily units, but 100 of them can be found at one apartment building on Sixth Avenue.

Meanwhile, MJR Development of Kirkland has snapped up several of the former state office buildings on Woodland Square Loop, and it is thought they might use the multifamily tax exemption, if approved, to convert a portion of those properties into housing.

That could mean more housing for the thousands of students expected to come to the community college, or Saint Martin’s University, which is just on the edge of the district and continues to grow.

Also Thursday night:

The council approved raising property taxes by 1 percent, plus the value of new construction and a small refund levy for next year’s budget. That boosts total property tax revenue for the general fund to about $5.7 million for next year from $5.5 million this year.

Although the council approved a 1 percent increase, the property tax levy is set to fall next year because real estate has appreciated again, leading to higher assessed property valuations.

So, the levy will fall to about $1.24 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, compared to about $1.28 this year. That means a homeowner with a home valued at about $200,000 will pay about $247 a year for the city’s portion of property taxes.

Thursday night also was the second public hearing about the city’s 2015 budget — the next public hearing is Dec. 4 — and once again Finance Director Troy Woo provided an overview, including a discussion about a section of general fund revenue called “all other.”

That is projected to be $6.5 million next year, including a line item for revenue to the city generated by violations: district court fines, traffic violations and the red light camera at Pacific Avenue Southeast and Sleater-Kinney Road Southeast.

The red light camera is expected to bring in $225,000 next year, which is close to its five-year average, Woo said.

Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder also announced Thursday that he will participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Burlington store, which has filled the former Top Food & Drug building on Martin Way near the movie theaters.

The ribbon cutting is set for 9:30 a.m. Friday (Nov. 14).