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Eye On Olympia

Posts tagged: church

State tax officials: Churches hosting farmers markets in their parking lots must pay property tax on the land…

I had this story in the morning paper:

OLYMPIA – State tax officials recently gave several Spokane-area churches an ultimatum: Stop running farmers markets in your parking lots or start paying tax on that land.

“We have no choice here. The law is really clear,” said Mike Gowrylow, a spokesman for the state Department of Revenue. “When you’ve got a commercial business – no matter how small or homegrown – operating on tax-exempt property, then it runs afoul of the law.”

Two of the farmers markets – one in Millwood and the one in downtown Spokane – will stay where they are, according to the Rev. Craig Goodwin, of Millwood Community Presbyterian Church.

He said his church will pay the $700 or so in taxes on its parking lot to enable the farmers market to continue.

“I’m familiar with the Bible passage ‘Pay unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,’ and we’re willing to do that,” he said. But he said the markets are a crucial community asset that should be exempt.

House approves bill giving church-based tent cities broader protection from “unreasonable” city regulations…

Washington’s House of Representatives today approved House Bill 1956, which would give churches and other religious organizations broad authority to shelter homeless people.

Local governments couldn’t “unreasonably interfere” with tent cities or other homeless housing at churches.

Prime Sponsor Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, said a few cities are imposing too many conditions in an effort to prevent faith-based groups from helping the homeless.

“I don’t need Big Brother dictating to the members of my congregation how we respond to urgent societal needs,” he said. And churches shouldn’t have to tap the collection plate “in order to challenge the tyranny of those local governments” in court, he said.

Cities and counties oppose the bill, saying it’s heavy handed and ignores health and safety concerns with homeless camps set up in neighborhoods.

“From the big brothers here in Olympia, this is an interesting piece of legislation,” said Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Bellingham. “This is an issue for city councils. The people who are closest to this particular issue are the ones who should be making the decision.”

The bill passed, 56-41.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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