Business Improvement District ordinance is approved; draws mixed reaction
UPDATE: The Chattanooga City Council voted 6 to 3 in favor of the controversial Business Improvement District (BID) after hearing from those who are for and against the BID.
A lot of mixed emotions filled the city council chambers.
Kim White of River City Company assures those who were against it, the BID will help everyone in downtown.
"People who came out with concerns, I think it's a great opportunity for them to come get involved because it is all about growing downtown and growing downtown's business. We've seen over and over again other communities that have a business improvement district and how it's helped the retail businesses. But we want businesses, all businesses, to have a voice at the table,” White said.
She says the new Business Improvement District is meant to clean up Chattanooga, something the city has desperately needed for some time.
"A majority of property owners by a large margin wanted to have a business improvement district,” White said.
Johnny O'Brien with Highpoint Fitness says cleaning downtown will draw in crowds from everywhere.
"I think it will actually help retailers and small businesses to actually thrive and actually do better because we will be able to attract more people to downtown because of the reputation that we have,” O’Brien said.
But many small business owners are still against it, and say too many questions are left unanswered.
"This board can come in and dictate what you do with your property. I wouldn't want be on the board because I wouldn't want to tell somebody what they can and can't do with their property,” Attorney Charles Paty said.
Darin Wright of Alea Blake Cosmetics has been against it from the beginning. He says everyone wants to improve Chattanooga, but believes it could have been done differently.
"I think that having a say in it would be great. I really wish we had the dialogue prior because now it is voted on and we are stuck with this for 10 years,” Wright said.
The BID does go into law effective immediately, but services like street cleaning, won't happen until 2020.
The BID Board is being put together in the meantime. The first meeting will happen once the board is in place.
Because of sunshine laws, these meetings will be open to the public.
Stay with the WRCB app for updates to this developing story.
PREVIOUS STORY: The Chattanooga City Council has passed the ordinance to create a Business Improvement District in the downtown area on Tuesday night.
The vote was 6-3.
River City Company, a private non-profit in Chattanooga, issued the following statement after the council's vote:
As a community, we’ve all invested in Downtown Chattanooga for almost four decades. Through a bold vision and daring projects, this community – not one group or administration, has created an urban core that, while not perfect, is a place that people want to invest. Whether that’s investing their resources to start a company, purchase a home or simply spend their time, Downtown Chattanooga is a special place. And, a Business Improvement District is only going to continue the investment in our urban core that’s been a part of our DNA as a city for so many years.
We want to think the City Council for listening to the overwhelming majority of property and business owners in the district and voting to move the Business Improvement District forward.
While challenging at times, we’re proud that property owners and businesses stepped up so boldly to say, “we believe downtown Chattanooga can be even better, and we’re willing to pay for it.” It’s this spirit that’s gotten us further than many other mid-sized cities. But, we cannot quit.
With over 1,000 business improvements districts throughout the U.S. and Canada and in all other major markets in Tennessee, this is an extreme value add for our city and a way for us to compete and keep businesses, residents and tourists.
We encourage those who expressed concern to not go by the wayside but to dig in deeper with the Business Improvement District. Have concerns? Apply to the BID board. Want to know what’s happening? Attend BID board meetings or reach out to the staff that will be hired to help manage the day to day operations of the BID. Want to know how the BID is working? Engage with the ambassadors and cleaning crews who will be in the district starting in early 2020.
BIDs are fair and equitable tools for everyone in the district to both support and benefit from additional services. From your large employers to attractions to your favorite sandwich shop, these additional services will elevate the experience of our downtown, help to fill vacancies, enhance the overall aesthetics and improve the experience for everyone.
PREVIOUS STORY: A big decision is in the hands of Chattanooga City Council members Tuesday night, as they decide whether or not to create a downtown Business Improvement District.
The idea has been a controversial one, with some saying it will hurt small businesses.
If passed, property owners in the district would have to pay an annual fee depending on the size of the property.
It would provide $1-million to help make the area cleaner and safer and help beautify the area.
John Clark has owned five properties on Broad Street for decades and has watched the landscape transform.
"And now it's very lively and animated and people enjoy being down here, do we'd like to do a little bit more to make it nicer," Clark said.
But dirty sidewalks, overflowing trash cans, rusty light poles and graffiti could slow down progress.
These are all things Clark believes a Business Improvement District can help address.
"It's no more of a cost than it is of a cost of a responsible property owner anyway," he added.
John Healy agrees. He owns property and runs a business a couple of blocks away.
"The most important thing we can do is take care of our central core business district. It's where the tourists come, it's where the 50,000 plus people come to work every day, the most important thing we need to be taking care of is this," he said.
While Healy believes property owners and businesses shouldn't have to foot the bill, he said someone has to step up to the plate.
"I don't want to pay any more fees. I am certainly not a proponent for raising more fees, frankly, the city should be doing this right now. They're not. I don't want to pay any more money either, but it's gotta get done," Healy said.
A similar proposal failed last month after a public hearing.
Stay with Channel 3 for updates on this story.