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February 9, 2017

Environmentally-minded firms might get tax breaks

The bill would authorize local governing bodies to create by ordinance one or more green development zones, inside which localities would be permitted to grant tax incentives and provide certain regulatory flexibility to attract green businesses.
— Del. Michael Webert, R-18th/Marshall
By SaraRose Martin
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Virginia businesses that operate in energy-efficient buildings or make products that benefit the environment could receive tax incentives under a bill headed toward approval in the General Assembly.

The House has already passed HB 1565, and the Senate Finance Committee unanimously endorsed the measure Tuesday.

The bill’s sponsor, Del. Michael Webert, R-18th/Marshall, said it was requested by economic development officials in his district to attract green businesses.

“The bill would authorize local governing bodies to create by ordinance one or more green development zones, inside which localities would be permitted to grant tax incentives and provide certain regulatory flexibility to attract green businesses,” Mr. Webert said.

A “green development business” would be defined as a business “engaged primarily in the design, development or production of materials, components or equipment used to reduce negative impact on the environment.”

As incentives, local governments could offer such businesses a reduction in permit fees, user fees and gross receipts taxes.

In addition, localities would be authorized to provide regulatory flexibility within a green development zone. That could mean special zoning, faster permit processing and exemption from certain ordinances. Localities could offer these incentives for up to 10 years.

The bill would expand on Virginia’s existing Enterprise Zone Grant Program. That program allows localities to apply for grants from the Department of Housing and Community Development for an enterprise zone designation that also offers tax and regulatory incentives.

Mr. Webert’s bill would apply the same ideas to green development zones. Under the program, as the value of real estate, machinery and tools within a zone increases, a percentage of the rising tax revenues would be used for grants aimed at attracting businesses or enhancing governmental services within the zone.

The legislation is part of a “green agenda” that Republican legislators touted at a news conference last week.

“The word ‘conservation’ and the word ‘conservative’ comes from the same piece of Latin,” said Del. J. Randall Minchew, R-Loudoun. “No conservative should ever be disappointed to call themselves a conservationist.”
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