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Wadena County Board approves tornado lot tax abatement plan

By a 3 to 2 vote, the Wadena County Board approved a plan to offer 10-year tax abatements to owners who build residential housing on any of 29 lots in southwest Wadena, beginning this year and continuing until Dec. 31, 2016.

The plan was proposed by City of Wadena officials last winter, and has been working its way through the legal processes required for such an endeavor. The City Council, the Wadena-Deer Creek Board of Education, and the county were all required to hold public hearings and take a vote on the abatement measure before it could go into effect.

All three municipalities have now voted to approve the plan. The rules of the policy state, in part: "Property may be redeveloped as a residential owner-occupied property or a residential rental property an permits must be issued with construction beginning in 2014, 2015, or 2016. All construction must be completed within 12 months from the date of permit. Qualifying housing may be built for speculation."

The Wadena city lots eligible for the abatement are on a list compiled by the City. Each lot with a minimum frontage of 75 feet and containing at least 9,000 sq ft, that was vacated by the 2010 tornado, is eligible for the abatement program.

Under the rules of the program, the minimum valuation of the new buildings must be $75,000 or greater, as determined by the county assessor.

The City of Wadena, the Wadena-Deer Creek School District, and Wadena County will abate property taxes for 10 years on new residential structures. The land will still be taxed.

Commissioners Dave Hillukka and Rodney Bounds, who voted against the county's participation in the plan, did so because, they said, they believed the tax abatement program should be extended to the entire county, to anyone whose home was destroyed by the 2010 tornado, not just to those living in a certain part of the City of Wadena.

Board Chair Bill Stearns, Commissioner Jim Hofer, and Commissioner Ron Noon, who voted in favor of the plan, did so because this was the plan presented to them and approved by the City and the school district. No other plans of this nature had been formulated, and the commissioners did not want to hold up the construction process any longer for the owners of the tornado lots in southwest Wadena.

New computer software will be needed in order for the county to administer the tax abatements during the next 10 years. The City, school district, and county will split the $7,500 cost of the software three ways.