Tax credit meeting

Chloe Mercer speaks to residents about the process of applying for a tax credit for historic properties through the state. The meeting was Thursday morning at the Anniston City Meeting Center. (Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

Mike Copeland came to Anniston on Thursday from his home in Columbia, S.C., to learn about the Alabama’s new historic tax credit, which includes changes that increase the odds that Calhoun County projects get the credits.

Copeland was among a small gathering at the Anniston City Meeting Center to hear an official from the Alabama Historical Commission discuss the state’s new historic tax credit. Copeland said he represents investors who are considering a project in Anniston, which he declined to discuss as the investors haven’t finalized the land deal.

“It’s a wonderful program, and it really works,” Copeland said, adding that he’s seen a similar tax credit “work wonders” in Beaufort, Charleston, Summerville and Greenville in South Carolina. “They’ve done a lot of work in Columbia as well ... A tax credit is gold.”

Gov. Kay Ivey on May 25 signed into law House Bill 345, which will reinstate the state’s historic tax credit in 2018. The new law sets aside $20 million in tax credits each year through 2022 and limits individual projects to $5 million in credits each.

Chloe Mercer, tax incentives coordinator for the Alabama Historical Commission, discussed at Thursday’s meeting a change in the law that requires 40 percent of the tax credits be set aside for the first six months of each year for projects in counties with populations of 175,000 or less. In July 2016 Calhoun County had an estimated 114,611 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Mercer said the population stipulation was to give better opportunities for the tax credits in smaller communities, “where the program has been underutilized in the past.”

Birmingham and Mobile got the lion’s share of the $19.3 million in tax credits for the 27 rehabilitation projects completed between 2013 and 2016.

Mercer said what she is hearing most about the new law is a change that requires buildings to be at least 60 years old. The previous law limited the tax credits to buildings that were at least 50 years old.

“I think they were just trying to cut out some buildings that they maybe didn’t like the architecture of,” Mercer said. “We’ll just have to see how much it affects projects.”

The new law does carve out an exception for property “located within the boundaries of a National Monument or Park,” in which case the building must be at least 50 years old.

State Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile, who sponsored HB 345, said by phone Thursday that the law’s exception for national monuments and national parks wasn’t included in his original bill, and was added later in the state Senate.

“And to my knowledge it wasn’t meant for any one particular site,” Gaston said.

That’s true, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said by phone Thursday.

Orr, chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee, said the committee added the exception so that any of the state’s civil rights sites that might become a national monument would only have to meet the National Register requirement of being at least 50 years old.

Orr said the additional 10 years age requirement on qualifying buildings was done to ensure the tax credits went to structures that most people imagine when they think of “historic.”

John Valieant, chairman of the Anniston Historic Preservation Commission, said after Thursday’s meeting that he’s encouraged by the change in the law that gives smaller, less-populated communities such as Calhoun County a better shot at the tax credits.

“I’m hoping that it’s going to work,” Valient said. “We’ve got a lot of buildings to do, and people are asking about it.”

Coleman, the representative for out-of-state investors, said that from what he learned about Alabama’s historic tax credits Thursday, the investor’s project would likely not qualify.

“But going forward, other projects could,” Copeland said. “From a developer standpoint these kinds of things can be very useful.”

The Alabama Historical Commission will begin accepting applications for the historic tax credits Nov. 1. For more information visit ahc.alabama.gov.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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