[UPDATED 3/30] HIRST Legislation update

March 30, 2017 | UPDATE:

As we approach the end of the Legislative Session in Olympia, the battle lines are being clearly defined every day.  Here are some updates that have significant impacts on our industry and merit closer attention by all of us.

HIRST Fix:  The House of Representatives hearing on Senate Bill 5239, the Hirst Fix bill, was held on Tuesday, March 28.  Our Association provided numerous stories from landowners in Whatcom County affected by that court decision to the legislators in the House Agricultural Committee and many more landowners attended in person.  I’ve heard from our lobbyists in Olympia that everyone “left it all on the field.”

Yet, the Democrat-controlled committee was unmoved.  As of today, the bill has missed a crucial deadline and, absent an attempt to move it forward as part of the budget, is stalled in that committee. The word on the street is that it will be part of the “negotiations” for the budget – we let them have revised real estate excise taxes and Business and Occupation taxes, they let us have some exempt wells.

There is another aspect to this court case that is beginning to be revealed: property valuations.

Skagit County recently re-evaluated the various properties in Skagit county impacted by the prior Swinomish Tribe case (Skagit River basin) and adjusted taxation values based on the lack of access to legal water sources.  This “adjustment” removed over $22,000,000 of value from the County tax roles and resulted in a tax shift to the remaining land parcels in the County – tax increases for those property owners whose property was not impacted.

There is a movement to immediately provide tax relief for property owners whose parcels are affected by the Hirst ruling.  Rep. John Koster (R-Snohomish County) has teamed up with other legislators to draft a bill requiring that counties immediately conduct revaluations of properties that now lack access to exempt wells following the Skagit County model.  Whatcom County is already facing revaluation requests so it is safe to say that we would experience a similar tax shift.  We’ll keep you informed as issues progress.

March 20, 2017 | UPDATE:

We have an immediate need!!

Senate Bill 5239, the bill to address the issues raised by the Washington Supreme Court decision in Hirst v. Whatcom County, is currently awaiting hearing in the Washington House Agriculture Committee.  To remain alive, the bill must have a hearing in that committee prior to March 28.   

We have been asked to gather stories of landowners in the 39th and 40th Legislative Districts who have been negatively impacted by the Hirst decision.  Generally, this would be people living South of Bellingham to Mt. Vernon and over to the crest of the Cascades (Bow, Edison, Burlington, Anacortes, Mt. Vernon, Sedro-Woolley, Concrete, Darrington, Rockport, Marblemount).  We need to have the stories written down with sufficient detail to demonstrate the hardship encountered by the families.  Additionally, we need permission to share these stories with our legislators.

Please provide my e-mail, perrye@wcar.net, to any landowner you believe is willing to participate.  Encourage them to e-mail their story and I will follow-up with the request for permission, clarification, etc.

We continue to work with our lobbyists in Olympia monitoring the status of many many bills, of which Senate Bill 5239 is only one – but probably one of the most important ones!  Once again, this is your membership dollars at work ensuring the benefits of property ownership for All our clients.


February 28, 2017 | UPDATE:

Correction – Beginning Time for County Council Presentation – I provided the incorrect start time for the County Council meeting Tuesday, March 7, 2017.  The special presentation begins at 6:00p.m. and the Question/Answer session between the invited experts and the County Council begins at approximately 6:20p.m.

Special Presentation by Eric Hirst himself!


Hirst Legislation:  There is some important information you need to know about the Hirst case and the legislation designed to remedy the turmoil caused by that decision.

First – There is going to be a REALTOR® Call to Action issued soon – so keep an eye out for that!  The Call to Action is designed to permit you to contact our legislators and urge them to proceed with the legislation that is awaiting a vote, primarily Senate Bill 5239.  We will send an alert immediately once the Call to Action is issued.

Second – There is another website designed to provide members of the public with information about the Hirst case.  The website, www.fixhirst.com, is created and maintained by the Building Industry Association of Washington.  This is another good reference for your clients, so be sure to visit.  My favorite part is the county-by-county review of the impacts this case has had on rural homeowners.

THIS IS A NEW ORDINANCE THAT MAKES CHANGES TO THE ZONING CODE, BUILDING CODE, ETC.!  The public hearing on these changes will immediately follow the special presentation.   You can find the proposal at:  http://www.whatcomcounty.us/DocumentCenter/View/25660