Our view: BID will be worth the wait
The city of Steamboat Springs has made a significant investment in downtown improvements as evidenced by the extensive work that has been completed on Yampa and Oak streets this summer, and we have no doubt downtown businesses have benefitted tremendously from the transformation.
With this in mind, we were encouraged to read that downtown business leaders are looking ahead to 2018 as the year when a downtown property tax proposal could go back on the ballot.
Main Street Steamboat Springs Executive Director Lisa Popovich announced last week that a tax question seeking funding for the downtown business improvement district, or BID, would hit the ballot next year to give those promoting the plan the proper amount of time to mount an educational campaign in support of the proposal.
Taking the time to make sure downtown property owners fully understand the implications of a BID and how they stand to benefit is essential to ensuring the tax measure passes. Popovich was on target when she said she believes previous attempts to pass a BID failed in 2007 and again in 2014 because the campaigns did not clearly detail how the BID funds would be spent and property owners feared the city would scale back its support of downtown upkeep should the BID pass.
Both of Popovich’s points are valid, and in particular, we think it’s imperative the city continue to have skin in the game when it comes to keeping Lincoln Avenue and Oak and Yampa streets in tip-top shape, because the city benefits from the increased sales tax that comes from promoting a vibrant downtown business district. We would like to see the city agree to a baseline level of support for downtown maintenance to give business owners reassurance that passage of a BID will not result in decreased support from the city.
It’s equally important that downtown property owners support a BID because the money it would generate gives them more control over their destiny. It would also signal to city leaders that the business owners themselves are willing to pitch in toward continued improvements and maintenance in the downtown area.
For all of these reasons, we think it is wise a vote on the BID will be delayed until next year.
Rather than rushing to place the issue on the ballot, business owners will have the opportunity to weigh in on what they’d like to see the BID money used for, and there will be ample time to answer any and all questions about the tax measure before it goes to a vote. We were also glad to hear the campaign to get the BID passed will be spearheaded by the business owners themselves rather than the Main Street organization. And as a reminder to Steamboat Springs residents, the BID is not a general election. The issue will be decided by commercial property owners located within the BID district, which encompasses Lincoln Avenue and Yampa and Oak streets from Third to 12th streets.
We editorialized in favor of the BID in 2014, and we don’t expect our support for the measure to change. We encourage downtown business leaders to come up with a fresh vision for a building improvement district that clearly outlines how the tax money would be spent for the benefit of the businesses and the city, so that those voting in the special election have no choice but to support the measure this time around.
Passage of a BID in 2018 would cement the relationship between property owners and the city, strengthen the potential for a healthy private-public partnership and help ensure the momentum for creating a vibrant downtown business district in Steamboat continues.
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