Huntington Mayor Wants to Draw New Residents with Tax Credits

by Tony Rutherford, Editor
Huntington Mayor Wants to Draw New Residents with Tax Credits

Remember all that negative publicity about the diminishing population of Huntington?  “From where we are right now, the City of Huntington has not diminished, it’s been urban sprawl,” explained Mayor Steve Williams.  “The population over the years has remained relatively stable in our MSA.

Williams would like to see an expansion of the boundaries of Huntington. At the Monday council meeting, city attorney Scott McClure was asked to research annexation law. The city must demonstrate a “value” to living here, Mayor Williams said.

“I’m looking to expand our boundaries, so when people do build they build in the City of Huntington. For instance, if the city had been aggressive   with its boundaries some of the Pea Ridge development would not have been just outside the city limits. If we expand into areas where there will be new development, it  can be in the city limits,” Williams said.

An upcoming meeting “contemplates” the development of incentives to inspire residents and developers to build housing which would “encourage new residents to (move into the city) in exactly the same way that we encourage businesses to locate (in the city) and hire (new people).”

Similar to incentives that provide tax credits for new job creations, Williams wants to “create tax credits for x number of new residents who move into the development.”  He stated, “I would as much enjoy having ten residents move into the city as creating ten jobs in the city.”  Explaining that “those ten jobs might live anywhere,” the Mayor said, “those ten residents {likely} are going to work in the city.”

In addition, Huntington must demonstrate benefits to draw new citizens within its boundaries.

“We in city government have to demonstrate there is a value for someone to live in Huntington,” he said. Among benefits noted by the Mayor in the brief interview with HNN, both a professional police and fire department,  as well as paved and clean streets, that (in the future) do not flood. “If we do those things , individuals will be more compelled to move here. What we need to develop are areas where large homes can be built, where empty nesters can have smaller homes, or multi-family residential complexes and  downtown living.”

Circumstances have altered following the mortgage bubble burst which lead to the significant recession.

Prior to the bubble when he lived in Chicago, “there were people buying property down and building a new residence.”   He had an office in Hinsdale, Illinois, which he said reminded him of Huntington though not as large geographically and not  having the same diversity.

The Chicago Sun-Times recently named Hinsdale Central High School as the city’s top suburban school and its ranked as number four in the state for excellence.

He asked whether Huntington has a market for a developer to come in, tear down a row of homes, and “build something else” on the location. “I would love to get an analysis of (whether) we have the kind of financial and geographical market that would support” this type of re-building concept.” Cautioning that “the market (here) might not support the concept, he suggested, “I’ve seen it happen elsewhere. Why not Huntington? Nothing ventured , nothing studied.”

Stressing that “people flock to a winner,” he added, “the more success we have, the more likely people are going to want to be in Huntington.” And, in his ten and a half months in office, “I’ve seen a change in attitude about our city. I’m not hearing negative consternations  about Huntington and I do not think I’m operating in an echo chamber.”

A key  element --- whether the momentum can be sustained.

One of the items for consideration addressing why Marshall students living in the city nine months out of the year are not counted in the population. “That is part and parcel to that which we must ensure we are doing,” Williams said.

“We are proud of our city and we need to create economic opportunity.”  


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