The Downtown Business Improvement District Board recently reconvened at City Hall to discuss developments, assessment possibilities and potential projects.
The meeting, which took place on March 20th at City Hall, featured a good conversation about a number of topics. In attendance were Board Chairman Josh Johnson, of Columbus Bank and Trust; Board Vice Chairman Kevin Johnson of Wize Buys Carpet Shop; Board Secretary Barbara Duffy, of Barbara Jean’s; fellow board members Lindsay Thomson, of Inspired by Soul Photography; Mary Nyffeler, of Treasures Boutique; Robert “Bob” Stachura, of Columbus Tire & Service Center; and Kristin Stock, of Artzy Haven. Joining them were Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen and City Administrator Tara Vasicek.
“I thought it went really great …,” Stock said, on March 24th. “We’re definitely trying to move forward with this project, and I think we are moving toward our goal. We’re just taking it step by step.”
The board reaffirmed its decision of shrinking the Business Improvement District’s boundaries per feedback and reviewed how it was mapped out. The new map includes the west boundary at 33rd Avenue (“because it’s the gateway to downtown”), the alleyway between 11th and 12th streets as the south boundary; 23rd Avenue serving as the east boundary; and the alleyway between 14th and 15th streets making the north boundary.
The board continued its discussion on reevaluating assessments. It was previously announced that a $200 assessment per $100,000 of valuation would be used for calculating the assessment of the properties. Owner-occupied single-family residences would be excluded from the district, as would tax-exempt properties such as churches and government-owned properties (businesses that have residential rental units on their second story would still be included).
At this meeting, the board once again addressed the assessment issue by looking at two additional options: A flat rate and a tiered option. Immediately the Board ruled out the flat rate, expressing its concern that it really wasn’t fair to several of the property owners in the district who had very small parcels or more than one smaller parcel. The Board then reviewed the tiered assessment option but also saw issues with this method.
Going back to the originally proposed option, the board indicated this would be the fairest option, but floated around an idea of a $750 cap on a property. The Board asked that figures be run with the $750 cap and will reevaluate the issue at its next meeting.
The board chairman had asked at the last meeting for board members to bring various project ideas the board could consider in the future: One that could be completed relatively quickly, a project that takes a little more time and then a dream big effort.
Many ideas were talked about, such as spaces for pets, holiday lights, picnic tables and benches, but the consistent themes among almost everyone in attendance seemed to be wayfinding signage, branding the downtown district and more parking with lighting for safety purposes.
“I think they are crucial to the future of downtown,” Thomson said, on March 24th. “I agree with those ideas and think they should be priority.”
In a separate conversation from Thomson, Stock shared her thoughts.
“One of our goals is to get some wayfinding signage to let people know where downtown is and that it’s accessible,” Stock said. “It’s definitely one of the priorities.”
Thomson said though she enjoys the meetings and working with her fellow board members, it’s not always easy. It requires taking everyone’s views into account.
“I feel like we go in circles, but that’s just due to taking so many things into consideration,” Thomson said. “I like that we have a diverse group of individuals who can contribute different perspectives.”
Moving forward, Thomson said she would like for the board to come to decisions so that they can go back to City Council for approval and start bringing positive change to the downtown district.
“My expectation is that we come to some conclusions fairly quickly in the next couple meetings on projects, the budget and the levy if it’s going to be based on an assessment or not,” Thomson said. “All of it has been highlighted the last two meetings, but we haven’t come to a complete conclusion.
“So, I just want for us to get some things accomplished, set in stone, so that we can move forward. And to keep the community in the loop. I believe that’s very important.”
The Business Improvement District Board will next meet at noon on Monday, April 3rd, at City Hall, 2424 14th St. The meetings are open to the public.
Board members Cory Reeder, of Reeder’s, and Dick Tooley, of Tooley’s Drug & Home Care, were not in attendance at the March 20th meeting. City Councilman Charlie Bahr was in attendance observing but did not comment.