Our view: Downtown businesses should fund the BID | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Downtown businesses should fund the BID

This November, business owners are being asked to fund the Steamboat Springs downtown business improvement district, known as BID. Those who own property or operate a business in the downtown district are eligible to vote on a proposed 2.22 mill levy. In addition, businesses on Yampa Street and Lincoln Avenue that are located in the "premium zone" would be voting on a special frontage assessment of $10.29 per linear foot.

In all, there are 400 potential votes, and we urge those individuals and businesses to cast their ballots in favor of the BID funding measure.

Similar measures have been defeated twice before, in 2007 and 2014. But this time around, Main Street Steamboat Springs Executive Director Lisa Popovich — who is leading the effort, along with BID board members, who own property on Lincoln Avenue, Yampa Street and Oak Street — are taking the necessary steps to educate downtown business owners about the benefits of funding the downtown district.

At a glance

At issue: The downtown business improvement district is asking businesses to support a mill levy and special frontage assessment to fund the district.

Our view: A mechanism to fund the BID would serve to enhance the downtown district at a time when the area is poised for more growth.

Editorial Board:
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Mike Burns, community representative
• Melissa Hampton, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@
SteamboatPilot.com
.

In previous attempts, only about a third of business owners voted, and the measure was narrowly defeated both times. To ensure a different outcome, business owners and operators must clearly understand how much the tax will cost them and how they will benefit from the funding. If that message is communicated clearly, we believe the issue deserves approval.

The BID board has done its homework, listened to downtown business owners and created a funding proposal that seems more equitable than past proposals. Historically, business and property owners on Oak Street have felt like they should not have to pay as much into a BID because they don't require the same services and marketing as the more retail-focused areas of Lincoln and Yampa.

Under the current plan, Oak Street is not included in the special frontage assessment. In addition, nonprofits with offices in the BID district, which are generally located on Oak, would not pay the additional mill levy, and nonprofits located within the premium district could apply to waive or reduce their special assessment payments.

It should also be noted that Oak Street businesses would only be contributing around $17,500 of the $300,000 in tax revenue that would be generated by the BID funding plan — another indicator of the proposal's fairness in our opinion.

Money generated by the mill levy could be spent on any improvements in the district, including services, marketing, way-finding signs and advocacy. Special assessment revenue would be used for snow removal, more frequent trash pickup, power-washed sidewalks and physical improvements like lighting, bike racks and benches.

In light of the fact that some Oak Street property owners question the value of marketing in their area, we were intrigued to hear Popovich describe plans to use BID funding to help establish Oak Street as a center for wellness in Steamboat — spiritual health, mental health, physical health — a vision that we think could result in increased business and also help property owners lease open office space. Right now, Oak Street lacks a strong identity, and we think there will be value in using BID funding to create the wellness brand itself.

Moreover, we have confirmed that BID funding will not be used to replace any pre-existing services provided by the city. The city has agreed to document its base level of pre-BID services and will continue providing that level of service to the downtown after funding is approved. BID funding would provide services above and beyond that level.

The timing of the vote is also well planned. If approved, the money generated by the mill levy and frontage assessment would build upon the city's multi-million investment in downtown that has truly transformed the area from Yampa all the way to Oak.

As we voiced earlier, voting in the BID and the BID itself is complex, so we encourage downtown business and property owners to visit steamboatspringsbid.com or reach out to Popovich directly at lisa@mainstreetsteamboat.com.

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