‘Abandoned Buildings’ incentive bill fails by four votes

    (Wyoming) – After a statewide effort that was spurred through social media…House Bill 82, also known as the “Abandoned Buildings” incentive bill, failed again in the Legislative Budget Session on Wednesday.

    Sponsoring the bill was House District 14 Representative Trey Sherwood of Albany County, who had reached out to Wyoming Main Street businesses, organizations, and municipalities, appealing through social media and email to gather photos of abandoned and vacant buildings from across the state.

    Titled “Cities and Towns-abandoned and nuisance buildings,” House Bill 82 stated that it would have provided “a tax credit for expenditures to incentivize the improvement of abandoned and nuisance buildings; authorizing cities and towns to designate abandoned and nuisance buildings for purposes of the tax credit; authorizing cities and towns to assess a fee for costs to abate a nuisance or to repair, remove or destroy a dangerous building; and providing for an effective date.” The bill failed on a 38-23 vote.


    Sherwood said she ran the bill “because our communities deserve tools to provide hard-working families the freedom from dangerous abandoned buildings and dishonest property owners. Incentives to redevelop existing lots in town protect the wide open spaces that we love.”

    Sherwood is also the Laramie Main Street Director and said that they are working on the city’s revitalization in assisting entrepreneurs in finding space in the district.

    “There is a high demand for first-floor retail, second-floor office, and upper-floor residential, yet some property owners haven’t responded to the market,” Sherwood said. “House Bill 82 provides an incentive for building owners to rehabilitate their space for mixed-use. New and expanding businesses provide jobs, generate sales tax, and often sponsor local nonprofits. A vacant building does none of these things. We need buildings that contribute to the economic vitality of our communities.”

    Communication is key in Fremont County

    Riverton Mayor Tim Hancock said that Riverton has buildings and property owners that could have benefited from the law, and “…could make a difference in our community because it is a win/win…a win-win for the community for cleaning up blight, and a win for the property owners.”


    Traci Cooper, President of the Riverton Downtowner Main Street Alliance, said that the problem is that they “can’t seem to get a hold of the building owners.”

    “I think what we need to do is find out who owns these buildings,” Cooper said, with one solution being to search city and county records. “If you look at our Main Street, it really isn’t too bad… it’s just that there are some stores in our downtown corridor that could be better utilized, even if they’re not doing anything. If we could use the window or display space, or something…of course, that is up to the owners. But if we can’t get in touch with them, we can’t move forward. I think that our number one problem is communication…and hopefully they (the owners) will come forward and then we can say, ‘Hey, how can we help, or how can we work together?’

    Cooper also mentioned Riverton’s iconic ACME Theater, “…and the little building next to it. I guess at one time back in the day, it was a bakery, and you could get some little pies and then go to the movies. There’s a lot of history there. Even though they’ve been closed, I’ve tried to reach out several times and can’t seem to get a response.”


    The Riverton Museum has an entire display dedicated to the history of the ACME Theater.

    Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith said that he was supportive of the bill. Even with the successes of a new town hall, a Fast Lane travel plaza, and a community town plaza, Highsmith said he’s had the same problems as Riverton as far as communication with the property owners.

    “Most municipalities in the state have this problem,” Highsmith said, also mentioning the issue of pushback by lending institutions and any possible liens that might be on the property. “However, I think it (the bill) show(ed) the willingness of the state and the municipalities in trying to work with a landowner.”


    Fremont County Commissioner Ron Fabrizius said that he was also supportive of the bill, and added that properties are “probably worth more with the abandoned buildings off of them than with them on,” he said.

    “The problem is that when you go to take down a building, what do you do with the demolished materials that you have to take out?” Fabrizius said. “If you haul it to the solid waste district…in Fremont County, you’re going to pay $80/ton to get rid of it. Plus, that doesn’t count the costs of labor or the equipment to bring it to the ground. We do have some buildings that probably do need to be brought down, but the land landowner probably doesn’t want to do it because of the cost. So if there were some kind of credit that would pay for some of that demolition…if I were them, I’d take advantage of that.”

    Fabrizius continued to say that abandoned buildings could be a fire hazard, putting a whole block at risk, or that there could be serious safety and liability issues “…with kids getting in there, or people that shouldn’t be in there.”

    “That’s not good, especially if you’re next door, and you’ve put a lot of money into your business and building, and have kept it up,” he continued. “Plus, if you leave it long enough, you’ll eventually have something that collapses, or if you leave a roof unattended for so long…it doesn’t take long before you start having some major problems.”

    For more information about House Bill 82, visit the website.


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