Tax exemption for Main Street apartment complex in Battle Ground receives approval


After months of appearances on meeting agendas, the Battle Ground City Council finally approved a property tax exemption program for a planned development featuring hundreds of apartments and commercial space.

During its Feb. 6 meeting, the city council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance to add a multi-family tax exemption (MFTE) program to city code. The program is specifically for a development known as “West Main Commons,” an $85 million project that features 220 market-rate apartments ranging from studio to two-bedroom units. The project also includes 36,000 square feet of commercial space on the project’s north end. The development would be located to the east of Battle Ground’s Best Western hotel.

The project area was approved by the council during its Jan. 17 meeting. The exemption, allowed under state law, would allow for abatement on property taxes on the residential portion of the property. It would not affect the commercial property or the land value itself prior to development.

The city council began conversations on the exemption in June. It was discussed at eight meetings, which focused on the requirements for the exemption and where it would be applied.

For the approved exemption, the development must make 10% of its units “affordable.” Affordability is defined in code as rent that does not exceed 30% of a household’s monthly income based on 80% of adjusted median income for Clark County.

The city approved a development agreement with Deacon Development, which is building West Main Commons, in September. The following month, the city discussed the potential of expanding multi-family tax exemptions to other parts of the city, specifically the East Main Street core.

Other municipalities are using the MFTE program to incentivize downtown revitalization, Battle Ground City Manager Erin Erdman said at an Oct. 3 meeting. 

“If we have downtown businesses that are looking to refurbish, maybe build from the ground up, you’re incentivizing them to put the housing on top, essentially; maybe a little bit better development on the bottom,” Erdman said.

Councilor Adrian Cortes was initially in favor of including the downtown core.

“You’re not going to have every single one of these lots be jumping for this tax exemption program,” Cortes said. 

He added that it only takes the redevelopment of one property with the exemption to raise property values along the Main Street corridor.

Erdman noted the exemption requires four or more housing units. With the way a number of parcels are laid out, would-be developers wouldn’t be able to use the exemption.

She also noted there would not be any developments of the scale of West Main Commons on East Main Street.

“You’re not going to have high-volume multifamily down in this corridor,” Erdman said.

At the time, Erdman also brought forth a potential “market rate” exemption where in lieu of having a proportion of affordable units, a development would include enhancements like additional parking, improved infrastructure and open space to qualify.

A month later, the decision to include the Main Street core in the exemption and the market rate option was dropped through consensus of the council.

At the council’s Nov. 7 meeting, councilor Troy McCoy said he wanted to wait before a Main Street revitalization plan was completed.

“Not doing something now doesn’t stop us from changing it later or adding in different zones,” McCoy said.

He said the impacts of West Main Commons could be used to inform any future moves the council takes on the exemption.

“Let’s see how it rolls out, see what … issues come up,” McCoy said. “Maybe no issues come up.”

Two weeks later, the exemption was back under discussion, this time due to a potential procedural issue. Through legal review, city staff learned the council had to approve a resolution before it set public hearings. They then would approve the exemption area and changes to city code.