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Friday, February 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Tax exemption sought for Falls high-rise

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 25, 2019

 (Courtesy of L.B. Stone Properties / A rendering shows a single high-rise tower planned as part of The Falls project. When complete, the 22-story building will have)
(Courtesy of L.B. Stone Properties / A rendering shows a single high-rise tower planned as part of The Falls project. When complete, the 22-story building will have)

A local developer and manufacturer is seeking $1.2 million in tax exemptions for a major high-rise project on the north bank of the Spokane River.

Larry Stone, president of SCAFCO and LB Stone Properties, wants the city to approve his downtown project, The Falls, for a multifamily tax exemption, an incentive to encourage the development of apartments and condos in the city to increase housing and density.

Over the course of the eight-year tax exemption, the city would forgo nearly $155,000 per year on Stone’s project, according to the city’s “property tax foregone and savings calculator.” This is a general figure that will change after the project becomes more defined and the county assesses the developed property.

Stone’s three-tower project will have a total of 372 residential units, according to the city. The project includes a hotel, but those rooms are not included in the tax exemption.

Stone and his company did not return requests for comment.

Last week, Stone filed plans with the city for the project’s first tower. The plans, which the city described but has not made publicly available, show Stone’s proposal to build a $70 million, 22-story tower, potentially making it the tallest building in the city. Earlier plans filed with the city said the project would have two, 13-story towers. The newest plans show three towers, a public plaza and new views of the upper Spokane Falls when complete, but it’s unclear if the remaining towers will be as tall as the first.

The multifamily tax exemption has had strong support from the City Council in recent years. The council expanded the boundaries where properties can qualify for the exemption in 2017, and again this year, when it was expanded by nearly 50% to nearly 5,000 acres, accounting for slightly more than 11% of the total land area in the city.

The exemption applies to the construction or rehabilitation of a building that has four or more living units. Under the exemption, the land is fully taxed, but any new improvements related to housing are exempt from property taxes. After the exemption ends, taxes are paid on the property’s full value. The exemption stays with the property even if it’s sold.

There are many hurdles to clear before a developer can receive the exemption, including approval by the City Council. Council members heard of the application Monday afternoon in their Public Infrastructure, Environment and Sustainability Committee. A vote on the application by the full council has not yet been scheduled.

Stone’s project has already been approved for $300,000 in city money through the “Projects of Citywide Significance” program. Under the terms of the program, a developer is reimbursed for improvements made in the public right of way upon completion of the entire project. In Stone’s case, the proposal includes burying utility lines near the tower. The city money will only be delivered when the project is complete and if it has complied with all public works requirements governing prevailing wage, bidding and other rules.

Stone injected himself into this year’s mayoral race when he produced the controversial 17-minute video “Curing Spokane.” The film, modeled after the KOMO-TV special “Seattle is Dying,” focused on downtown crime in Spokane.

Nadine Woodward, who won the race, praised Stone for bringing attention to “a problem that has been going on in our city.”

Her opponent, City Council President Ben Stuckart, said the film was “embarrassing, inciting and shaming our people to make a political point” and suggested that the city should consider diverting the “citywide significance” funding to drug addiction treatment and outreach. Stuckart quickly backed away from what he called the “one-sentence idea.”

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