Column: Your incentive awaits

Column: Your incentive awaits

Thinking about locating or expanding a business in Clark County? Not sure it will pencil out? Worried about the cost of permits?

Thanks to a fee holiday approved by the Board of Clark County Commissioners, 27 local businesses have found it easier to move ahead with plans to create jobs and spur our economy. You could join their ranks and save anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the details of your project. 

Until the end of 2011, the county will waive certain fees for commercial tenant improvements and to develop business parks, industrial sites and offices. So far, a variety of businesses have stepped forward to benefit from this opportunity, including a small animal hospital, a care facility, a cooking school and retail stores.

The guidelines

To date, business owners and developers who have tapped into the program are very happy. One example is Vora Dollar of Yo 2 Go, a frozen yogurt shop at 13307 Northeast Highway 99 in Vancouver. 

“I think the program is super,” said Dollar. “I feel like I won the Lotto. I saved more than $4,500 in fees. With the money I saved on the permits I can afford to hire two part-time high school students. I tell all my friends who are thinking about starting a business, ‘Now is the time!’”

Dennis Wubben of Technology Unlimited Inc., at 14407 Northeast 13th Avenue in Vancouver, was the first applicant approved for a fee holiday. Despite being the first, he said the process was “all dialed in” and went smoothly. In addition, he said the cost savings made it possible for him to negotiate a contract on a large new development site.

Fee waivers apply within commercial zones for businesses making tenant improvements that have taxable retail sales and are located within certain areas targeted for public investment, next to the county-owned rail line or for industries that have 200 or fewer employees in Clark County.

For commercial ventures applying for tenant improvements, fees may be waived for plan review and building permits. 

For new development, where a business starts with bare dirt, the program works in a two-step process, which starts by looking at the zoning. The property must be located in one of the following zoning districts: business park, light industrial, mixed-use, office campus or rural commercial CR-2.

If it meets the zoning test, your proposal must then meet at least one of these criteria:

• Located within a focused public investment area, such as Highway 99, Salmon Creek Research Park (WSU Vancouver area), Discovery Corridor, Barberton/St. Johns and Northeast 117th Avenue.

• Located adjacent to and designed to ship products and supplies from the Chelatchie Prairie rail line.

• Stands to diversify the local economy by expanding an industry that currently employs 200 or fewer people in Clark County.

New development must go through site plan review. This process looks at engineering, environmental, land use and transportation requirements. Once the site plan is approved and building permits are reviewed, construction may begin. Projects qualifying for the holiday can receive waivers for fees throughout the development review and building process. 

The commissioners approved these fee waivers as a temporary measure to help our community emerge from the recession. In keeping with that goal, your first building permit inspection must take place by June 30, 2012 and construction must progress in a timely manner.

I’m pleased that both new and existing businesses are taking advantage of this incentive to invest in our county, and I look forward to seeing more proposals.

Marty Snell is the director of Clark County Community Development. For more information on fee holiday program visit www.clark.wa.gov/commdev/FeeHoliday.html or call (360) 397-2375.

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