Wood County development, revenue in decline

PARKERSBURG – Residential and commercial development in Wood County has been down and the result is less revenue coming in, but officials say it appears there has been some slow growth in progress.

According to a recent report prepared by Mark Rhodes, deputy clerk, the amount of real estate tax has only seen a 1.72 increase in collections over the five-year period ending June 2013.

During that same time period, personal property tax revenue saw a decrease of 7.80 percent.

Revenue from building permits over that five-year time frame was down 43 percent, according to the report.

The time period for which the statistics were compiled ran from June 2008 to June of 2013.

“We are down in lots of the districts as far as the numbers on new construction starts. We are seeing more remodeling, additions and upgrades to property,” said Wood County Assessor Rich Shaffer.

Shaffer said area appraisers and realtors report real estate in the area is not staying on the market as long as it has been.

“That’s a good sign; it just depends on other factors in the economy of the county. We may start seeing an increase in the real estate values, for example, if the area were to see the proposed (ethane) cracker plant or some other large industry come to the county that provides jobs,” Shaffer said.

The assessor noted the reverse is also true.

“If we lose a large business in Wood County, you would see a negative impact on the real estate markets. But assessors are not fortune tellers, we follow the market, we don’t forecast it. We are actually a full year behind in what is reflected on the taxes,” Shaffer said.

“It’s cyclic, if the economy starts picking up, we will see some new developments,” he said.

New facilities, showrooms constructed by some local car dealers will be reflected next year.

“We don’t pick it up for assessment purposes until it’s completed and the assessment period begins July 1. And as new facilities were constructed, in some cases, the old properties were demolished and would be removed from the books. Most of those new building went on for the first time this year since they were just completed, so the first tax ticket will be next year,” Shaffer noted.

“I do think things are improving, it is a slow growth that we are currently experiencing,” Shaffer said.

Of the decrease in revenue from personal property, the assessor noted personal property includes more than just vehicles.

“Personal property includes machinery, equipment with businesses and would be affected by Fenton’s reduction and SABIC (Innovative Plastics) reduced their machinery and equipment. We’ve had several businesses go out of business so that would remove their personal property from the tax records,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer noted his office picks up new construction when the structure is completely finished.

“If it’s a residential building, it’s when it’s done or when people have moved in,” he said.

The Wood County Planning Commission, which oversees land use regulations for the unincorporated areas, hasn’t had a lot to do over the past several years. The commission last approved a new housing development more than a year ago, with Phase II of North Pointe subdivision, located off West Virginia 31 getting the nod. The first phase of the development was approved back in 2009.

In the spring of last year when the second phase in North Pointe was approved, officials said the subdivision was one of the few planners had dealt with in the past two years.

At the time, county administrator/planning commission coordinator Marty Seufer commented: “There just isn’t much development going on out in the county. It has to be due to the economy, people just are not building.”

There has been some other commercial development in the area, most recently ads appeared in the newspaper seeking managers for a Five Guys Burgers and Fries and an IHOP restaurant. Officials confirmed the Five Guys restaurant was going into Vienna; the location of the IHOP has not been publicly disclosed.