Nonprofit seeks waiver of property taxes

Crossroads Community Executive Director Michael Couch asked the council to consider waiving property taxes for nonprofit organizations that operate affordable housing units during the council’s March 13 meeting.

Crossroads, located at the Applegate Landing apartment complex, provides a wide range of support services for low income and transitional housing families. Last year, the nonprofit purchased a 20-unit complex for the chronically homeless and those with severe mental illness.

As they work toward their goal of providing affordable housing for the most in need, a hurdle they face is the cost to do so. Oregon statutes allow cities to waive property taxes on affordable housing properties owned by nonprofits.

Property taxes pay for police, library, senior center and municipal court services. They also help fund community development planning services, City Hall utilities, general office expenses and emergency management. Taxes from properties in an Urban Renewal District also fund infrastructure in their area.

“Allowing nonprofit organizations to save the money they would have otherwise paid in taxes allows them to put that right back into the vulnerable members of the community,” Couch said.

In his presentation, Couch said “the benefits to the community outweigh the costs (perceived and fiscal) of adopting” the tax waiver.

Councilor David Workman asked how the city would see a return, so to speak, on the waived property taxes. Couch replied that the city ends up saving money over the long run because families in stable housing are able to get better jobs, and are less likely to be involved in crime or rely on social and health care services. Ultimately, urgent care services for the homeless and police expenses are expected to be reduced, he said, both of which are paid for by taxpayers.

Couch said Crossroads as well as Colonia Paz would benefit from the tax waiver, but he had noted that more developers might build more affordable housing units if property taxes were off the table.

Councilor Michelle Steinhebel said she would like city staff to produce a report about the impact a tax waiver would have on the city.

In other business, the council:

◆ Heard an update from the Parks, Trees and Trails Advisory Committee.

◆ Heard from Derek LeBlanc, of Kids S.A.F.E. Foundation in Eugene, which teaches firearm safety to kids. He asked for the city’s permission to set up a blowup BB gun range downtown during the Strawberry Festival, since city ordinances prevent shooting within city limits.

Interim City Manager Ron Whitlatch said this opportunity might be possible if LeBlanc goes through an event permit process and obtains the police chief’s blessing.

◆ Heard from Karyann Lane, owner of The Beauty Temple Salon downtown, who requested the Farmer’s Market be moved from a downtown parking lot to Ralston Park, citing parking limitations as a hurdle to downtown merchants.
Councilors said they’d like to start a conversation with the organizer of the Farmer’s Market to see if anything could be done, but they also noted that if they prevent one organization from using the parking lot, then they should prevent other organizations from using it as well.

◆ Heard from Shellie Jackola, executive director of Lebanon Downtown Association, who provided an update on LDA activities.

◆ Agreed to provide $100,000 in tourism funds for the remodeling of the city’s Chamber of Commerce, which was destroyed by a car crash last year. They also directed staff to draft a policy for any future case that someone might ask for tourism funds. Tourism funds are only allowed to be used for tourism-related activities and promotions.

◆ Passed a resolution to update policy and guidelines for the private sewer lateral replacement assistance program.

◆ Amended an ordinance that allows City Council to agree on meeting times for work sessions. Originally, the ordinance specifically stated work sessions must meet at noon.