The Downtown Business Improvement District Board is free to proceed after the district was formally approved on June 5th by the Columbus City Council.
After an extensive conversation, the Council voted 6-1 in favor of approving the ordinance that allows for the formal creation of the Downtown Business Improvement District and the ability to raise funds to be used for the purposes of providing and maintaining authorized improvements. Council President Beth Augustine Schulte and Council members Troy Hiemer, Rich Jablonski, Katherine Lopez, Prent Roth and Ron Schilling voted in favor, while Councilman Charlie Bahr voted against it. Councilwoman Hope Freshour did not vote as she wasn’t in attendance.
The general vicinity of the BID goes from the alley south of 11th Street to the alley north of 14th Street between 23rd Avenue and 33rd Avenue and the Evans House, 2204 14th St, as previously announced.
Property owners did have a right to express their views at the public hearing, which resulted in a few people speaking in favor and against the BID’s creation. According to Nebraska Revised Statute 19-4027, the public hearing would only have been terminated if written protest was made before the close of the hearing by the record owners of more than 50 percent of the assessable units in the proposed business improvement district.
The BID Board, a volunteer group made of local downtown business/property owners, previously announced after months of collecting public feedback that it was ready to seek final approval from the City Council for its proposed assessment. The assessment that was shared with the public and approved by the City Council is based on a $200 per $100,000 valuation per county records, with a $750 cap per property per year. It 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.
Per public feedback, a reevaluation clause was also added into the ordinance noting that after a period of five years, the Downtown BID Board will meet to reassess the district's efficacy and create a report for the City Council to determine whether it should continue or disband.
The board at its open-to-the-public meetings in the past has outlined various ways to potentially use funds, such as banners, marketing, permanent signage and more. It will now look to firm up those plans at its next meeting, which is in the process of being scheduled and will be publicly announced soon. It will be held in the first-floor conference room of the existing City Hall, 2424 14th St. in downtown Columbus.
“We have to deliver on what we have set out to do,” BID Board President Josh Johnson said. “We need to prioritize the projects and scope of work, plan out a timeline for the rest of the year and get to work."
City Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen said she feels the BID can enable the board to enact improvements to the downtown area that many community members have said they desire via the recently conducted downtown studies.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” she said.