Steve Lewis: Property owners should vote ‘no’ on BID
The Steamboat Springs Business Improvement District — BID — is trying again to create a commercial property tax in downtown Steamboat. Like the 2007 and 2015 BID tax attempts, this is for marketing, advocacy and the staff to oversee it. It has failed each time.
I think we should vote “no” again. Commercial businesses are already paying four times higher property taxes than similar valued residential properties. That is a heavy load.
As you know, Oak Street has long established businesses primarily serving local residents. We don’t need branding or marketing from the BID. More “feet on the street” are useless to all but two or three of our businesses.
With little use for such marketing, it’s hard to understand BID advocacy that would force it on us and tax us for the cost. I’ve yet to hear of anyone on Oak Street who wants this tax. Some are angry about it. Rather than unifying the downtown, it seems the BID is doing the opposite.
The tax is a 10-year-old idea and out of touch with community goals. The last things folks want downtown are more crowds and parking problems. A permanent property tax dedicated to bringing bigger crowds and more cars is a terrible idea. Does this BID really serve our community?
Some at the BID say it would sunset in 10 years. A Steamboat Pilot & Today article on July 22 also described the sunset of the BID district. Of course, any new tax or tax district becomes more palatable if the stakeholders’ vote is required down the road to continue it.
If it performs poorly, you can vote it down. Even if you decide to keep it, that next vote inspires accountability and efficacy in the district’s performance. Unfortunately, that won’t happen here, because we won’t get that vote.
In 10 years, the decision to make the BID and its tax permanent would be made solely by the BID board and City Council. BID documents put it this way, “If the BID is deemed successful, the BID will request that the City Council renew the BID by resolution after the initial (10-year) period.”
In Colorado, BIDs have always chosen life over death. And imagine any city turning off a $270,000 downtown spigot of other people’s money. Remember, the city appoints BID board members. Even though the uses of city and BID funds are supposed to remain separate, our City Council president recently said about the BID, “I think that what we would find is that we’re spending a lot more than what we would be paying here.” If we approve this tax, it will never go away.
It’s important to consider, what are we accomplishing for our downtown community? I’ll soon have to spend roughly $19,000 installing a sidewalk downtown. Going in, I know I’m investing to meet a community priority. Even better, I can see my investment will serve everyone.
The BID cannot say either about its new tax, which is poised to fundamentally impact our downtown character. Just how many more visitors can we squeeze into our town?
Unfortunately, only those who rent or own commercial property downtown can vote on this tax. And it takes a little work. You have to request or pick up a ballot from some office yet to be named, and mail it to an address, likely in Denver. Please take the time to vote, and say “no” to this outdated plan.
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