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Independence seeks enterprise zone

INDEPENDENCE -- Independence leaders are seeking a special zoning on industrial property on the north side of town that would exempt potential business developers from having to pay property taxes for several years.

A proposed zoning change on industrial land near Independence State Airport would exempt business developers from property taxes for a three- to five-year period.

Graphic by Pete Strong

A proposed zoning change on industrial land near Independence State Airport would exempt business developers from property taxes for a three- to five-year period.

February 27, 2013

INDEPENDENCE -- Independence leaders are seeking a special zoning on industrial property on the north side of town that would exempt potential business developers from having to pay property taxes for several years.

The city is trying to get 43.5 acres just west of the Independence State Airport included in the Dallas-Monmouth-Independence (DMI) enterprise zone, part of a state program that offers incentives to large industrial and non-retail entities.

"We have other industrial properties in this zone, which puts this land at a disadvantage," said Shawn Irvine, Independence economic development director. "In many ways, this is leveling the playing field.

"The reality for a lot of large-scale development is that being in an enterprise zone is the ticket to the game."

The land is part of a 193-acre block of land owned by Gary Gentemann of Tigard. More than 84 acres of Gentemann's land -- including the 43.5 acres in question -- was annexed in 2010.

Oregon lawmakers established the enterprise zone program in 1985 as a way to attract commerce to spots outside of major metropolitan areas.

The zones are sponsored by municipal or tribal governments. There are 60 enterprise zones in Oregon to date, 47 of them in rural areas.

In exchange for locating or expanding into an enterprise zone, businesses are exempt from property taxes assessed on a new plant and equipment for three to five years.

The business, meanwhile, must increase its staffing level by at least one job or 10 percent, whichever is greater.

The business can't cause concurrent job losses outside the zone boundary during the exemption period. A minimum staffing benchmark must also be maintained.

A caveat for this county's zone is that it requires approval from all three major cities and the Polk County Board of Commissioners.

Dallas was the first local city to seek an enterprise zone designation in 1987. Independence and Monmouth sought to be included with Dallas in 1998 and 2000, respectively.

"There are quite a few rural enterprise zones that encompass property in a couple of different cities," said Jason Locke, Dallas community development director.

This requires all three cities and Polk County to grant approval for inclusion of any piece of land within a city into the program, "which is cumbersome," Locke said.

Dallas and Monmouth have already voted to include the Independence land in the enterprise zone. Polk County will hold a public hearing this week.

Irvine said the Gentemann property has been on the market for a few years, though there haven't been serious offers yet.

"People have said it would make a good site for a data center," Irvine said. "Most big business is using existing buildings. What I'm hearing is that inventory is getting used up. That will make this property a lot more appealing."

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