Recent decisions severely impact property owners

originally published March 27, 2017—

By: Jim McKinney, Executive Director, Common Threads Northwest

The WHATCOM COUNTY COUNCIL moratoriums on Cherry Point industrial growth and drilling previously exempt home-use wells have a dramatic impact on our economy and tax base.  They cost businesses and individual property owners hundreds of millions of dollars.  Because of the Council decisions, our quality of life is at risk.

Petrogas Energy Inc. requested to reduce Cherry Point property values from $262M to $42M, a $220M loss, due to Council imposed regulations.  Ironically, the County Assessor had to ask the Council for $150,000 of taxpayer funds to fight the request.  Other Cherry Point industries are preparing similar requests. These devaluations create a massive tax revenue shortfall.

The value of property without access to existing water service is drastically reduced with the moratorium on domestic well-drilling.  Taxes must be reduced to reflect the lower values.  The County Assessor estimates between 1,000 and 1,500 properties are immediately affected. Over 5,000 properties may be impacted over 3 years – with 75% devaluations or greater.

The Assessor is forced to redistribute the revenue losses. Tax needs are fixed, or services are reduced – County property owners WILL PAY MORE IN TAXES to offset the devaluations.

By a significant margin, the County’s largest tax contributors and top paying employers are Cherry Point heavy industries.  Their taxes provide the highest percentage for schools, roads, services and safety in our community.  Those same revenues protect our precious environment, parks and trails.

Our primary industries, rural property owners and our tax base are under attack.  Life savings, long held investments and dreams of building in the country are ruined.  New businesses don’t move to over-regulated and anti-growth communities.  No new business, no new revenues.  No new revenues, bankruptcy often follows.

How will local government pay for inevitable inflation and deteriorating infrastructure – raise taxes, again?  The math doesn’t work.  No-growth may be idealistically appealing, but it is economically ruinous.

Whatcom County Council decisions are unfairly punishing all our citizens and undermining our economic future.  We cherish our unique environment, but the Council must protect our economy too.  Hold elected officials accountable – we elect them to work for us, not against us.