Downtown businesses to form Improvement District

A business district can strengthen ALL businesses downtown
By Pat Ratliff | Jan 18, 2013

A group of downtown business owners have succeeded in establishing a Business Improvement District (BID) in downtown Edmonds.

The BID allows business to assess fees on its members to perform a number of duties, which could include marketing as well as deal with parking issues, street cleanup, and other issues.

“A business district can strengthen ALL businesses downtown,” said David Arista, owner of Arista Wine Cellars and one of the committee members of the group that proposed the BID. “When one of us benefits, we all benefit.

“We’re all in this together, and we now have the ability to make a thriving downtown district.”

The BID allows for self-assessment on businesses in the district. By being self-funded, the fees available are sustainable, allowing the group to decide which projects are better for the group and exactly where and how they want to spend their funds.

“Why make a BID?” Arista asked. “They are becoming increasingly successful. (There are more than 1,000 of them in the U.S.)

“By helping the downtown area, we also create more tax revenues for the city.

“This is a win-win-win situation. When the businesses win, the citizens and the city also win.”

The money collected is not a tax but an assessment on the local businesses. No citizens are taxed and, except for a “small amount” of city staff time, no city funds are used.

Assessments are based on two categories of businesses – open door businesses and “by appointment” businesses.

Open door businesses pay more – up to $600 per year, while “by appointment” businesses pay $120 per year.

Assessments are on the businesses, not the property owners.

“We’ve worked hard to make this affordable for everyone,” said Pam Stuller, owner of Walnut Street Coffee and another BID committee member.

Stuller said the BID will be governed by the City Council, but run by a member advisory group, made up of a cross section of businesses in the district.

The city will collect assessment fees when business licenses are paid for and hold the funds for the BID.

Mary Kay Sneeringer, owner of Edmonds Bookshop and a BID committee member, said the mayor will appoint the member advisory board, with a mix of all kinds of businesses.

“We need to submit a work plan and bylaws within 90 days,” she said. “This will give people in the district a chance to contribute both positive and negative input. We’re taking the initiative to improve downtown ourselves.”

Sneeringer said this will make a powerful public and private partnership and bring energy to downtown Edmonds.

Business owner Brian Comstock of Comstock Jewelers agrees with the importance of the BID.

“In all my years here, I’ve never seen a more comprehensive plan to help downtown,” he said.

The City Council was split, with some wanting to vote to establish the district and others hoping to postpone to get more answers to questions or in opposition to the plan.

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, while “100 percent in favor of the BID” wanted more time.

“We need to hold back slightly,” she said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions.”

But Councilmember Strom Peterson, also a business owner in the proposed BID, disagreed.

“It’s time for business owners to stop relying on others to do everything for them,” he said.

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson also wanted to move forward.

“I’d like to see this get started,” she said. “Anything we can do to strengthen the business community is good.”

The council voted 4-3 in favor of the proposed BID. Councilmembers Yamamoto, Buckshnis, Peterson and Johnson voted in favor; councilmembers Petso, Fraley-Monillas and Bloom voted against.

“We’re happy the council had the courage and conviction to pass this,” Arista said. “The hard work really starts now.

“We look forward to working with all the businesses on the work plan and by-laws and hope to have as much participation as possible by the downtown business community.”

 

 

 

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