The Downtown Business Improvement District Board is looking to soon meet with business owners and other community members to discuss its efforts, keep everyone informed and solicit more public feedback.
The DBID Board has scheduled a 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 18th town hall meeting at the Columbus Innovation Center, 1365 24th Ave., Suite 500.
“Our whole committee has grinded over community feedback. We want to know the good, the bad and the ugly from community leaders on what they think,” Board Chairman Josh Johnson said. “We want their feedback in terms of what they want to see and what their vision for Columbus looks like. So, I encourage people to attend. They can expect to be heard and to learn about what we’re trying to do.”
The board decided in favor of hosting a town hall during its last meeting on Monday, April 3rd, at City Hall. In attendance were Johnson, of Columbus Bank and Trust; Kevin Johnson, of Wize Buys, who is also board vice chairman; Barbara Duffy, of Barbara Jean’s, who is the board secretary; Mary Nyffeler, of Treasures Boutique; Cory Reeder, of Reeder’s; and Robert “Bob” Stachura, of Columbus Tire and Service Center. Joining them were Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen and City Administrator Tara Vasicek.
The meeting proved quite productive. After weeks of deliberation, the board appears to be ready to present what it feels is a good assessment for the first year of the DBID if it was to be ultimately approved by the Columbus City Council.
The assessment would be based on a $200 per $100,000 valuation per county records, with a $750 cap per property. That would net $45,827.26 in year one, but the City of Columbus would also match that amount, to give the board a first-year budget of approximately $91,654.52. Owner-occupied single-family residences would be excluded from the assessment, 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).
It was previously announced that a $200 assessment per $100,000 of valuation would be used for calculating the assessment of the properties, with no cap. But the board got feedback from the public and made adjustments it felt addressed concerns and still would help get goals accomplished. The new assessment gives the DBIDB approximately $9,740.26 less than the initial assessment projected, but members indicated they felt it was a good middle ground.
The board president made a motion during the meeting to present the new assessment to the public, which was seconded by Stachura.
The board then did a tentative breakdown of how the budget would be used in the first year. Approximately $30,000 would go for banners throughout the whole district; exploring purchasing billboard space ($10,000); permanent signage ($5,000); improved holiday lighting in Frankfort Square ($10,000); phasing in new Christmas lights throughout downtown ($15,000); new trash receptacles ($6,000) and planters ($6,000). The remaining amount was left for other ideas from the public.
“I’m glad the board is making progress and making decisions. I think it’s important they continue with the momentum they have,” Van Iperen said. “I think the projects that they set are quick wins that people will see a change in the downtown area in a relatively short time … but there’s continued work to be done.”
Board members Lindsay Thomson, of Inspired by Soul Photography; Kristin Stock, of Artzy Haven; and Dick Tooley, of Tooley’s Drug & Home Care, were not present at the April 3rd meeting.
As for the town hall, the board chairman said he’s hoping it can also be a great way to clear up misconceptions about the DBID and ultimately pave the way for it to become a game-changing idea for the downtown district, much like it has been for comparable Nebraska cities. Hastings, Kearney and Norfolk all have similar improvement districts, while Grand Island has four.
“The town hall is an opportunity to get individuals with different backgrounds and perspectives in a room to discuss collectively the vision for downtown Columbus. There are endless possibilities,” Johnson said. “We want to work collaboratively with other agencies. We hear about how Norfolk, Kearney, Hastings and Grand Island embraced that potential. And they all did it through downtown improvement districts. People need to understand that.
“I’m excited to take all the feedback from everyone and make their dreams come alive.”
The DBID Board will take feedback from the community at the town hall before going back to City Council to request approval to proceed at a later date. It has not yet been determined when the board will go back to the City Council.