A tax abatement program to spark construction of multi-family housing failed to win approval from the Fairmont City Council on Monday. Linsey Preuss, Fairmont’s economic development coordinator, told the council that Fairmont has a “very low” 2 percent vacancy rate for rental housing, which can make it difficult for area businesses to secure an adequate work force. The proposed program would aim to spur development of more housing options, with the abatement for 10 years of real estate tax increases resulting from the new multi-family housing built in the city limits.

The program already has received unanimous support from the Fairmont Economic Development Authority, which cultivated the proposal, and the Fairmont Area School Board. Martin County commissioners have discussed expanding the measure to a countywide program.

Councilor Tom Hawkins lobbied to table the vote until the next council meeting to explore the possibility of targeting specific areas of Fairmont for the abatement Preuss reminded the council that FEDA’s recommendation “would include the whole city.” Specific areas could be targeted or marketed, and each abatement request would have to undergo a public hearing and receive council approval. Hawkins also said that members of the city’s Planning Commission and Comprehensive Use Plan Committee wanted to look at the abatement proposal.

Hawkins made a motion to postpone the vote to give him time to meet with “key people” from the Planning Commission and FEDA. Ruth Cyphers seconded the motion, but it was voted down, 3-2, with Peters and council members Wayne Hasek and Randy Lubenow voting no. Peters made a motion to approve the original abatement proposal, and Hasek seconded it. Hawkins and Cyphers voted no, and Lubenow abstained. Because Lubenow’s abstention was not based on a conflict of interest, it was considered a no vote, and the motion failed.

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