BID future on the line?
The future of a controversial organization in Nevada City aimed at boosting business, but criticized for charging unfair and burdensome fees, could be decided today.
Proponents of the historic downtown’s Business Improvement District say benefits of the organization, such as new benches, will increase sales as the program continues. Others say the group, which is funded by taxes on the area’s approximately 150 businesses, is unnecessary and will grow more cumbersome.
“We provide benefits to everyone who’s there,” said BID chair G. Patrick Dyer. Installing benches on Broad and Spring streets was BID’s main accomplishment during its first year, he said.
“The whole thing was a sham from start to finish,” said Gary Stollery, co-owner of Toad Hall Book Shop on North Pine Street. “They haven’t done one thing to bring customers.”
City Council members will debate BID’s fate and hear public comments at a regularly scheduled meeting starting at 7 p.m. today.
Council members launched BID by a 4-1 vote in 2005, with then-council member Steve Cottrell dissenting. Cottrell, a part-time night manager at the National Hotel and now mayor, heads a council that includes two new members, Barbara Coffman and Sheila Stein.
Tom Coleman, owner of the National Hotel on Broad Street, heads an opposition group to BID, the Nevada City Business and Property Owners Association. He said local businesses are evenly split into three groups: Those in favor of BID, those opposed and those with “acute apathy.”
Business owners in the district pay fees to BID on a sliding scale, depending on the type and size of their business.
Coleman pays $1,000 a year for his hotel and another business, he said.
Stein, who operates National Home Loans, said she has one employee and pays BID $500 a year.
Stein said she is “torn” on the issue. Although she “believes in the BID,” she expressed concerns about the unequal fee structure and the group’s lack of action to address that inequity. She said City Attorney Jim Anderson has cleared her to hear the issue, although she has recused herself from a previous discussion.
Coleman said council members must respect the opinions of those paying the BID fees. With next year’s collection set at $43,640, opposition from business owners paying $21,821 should end the program, he said.
Stollery said he won’t pay the $360 fee assessed on small retailers. His business declined during the past year, he said, and he disliked “having another tax imposed.” About a month ago, Stollery said, he received a letter stating the Retail Credit Association was pursuing collection on his BID fee.
“It’s sort of like refusing to pay your income tax,” Dyer said, adding that everyone needs to pay their share for the BID’s programs to work.
“I just run my business,” said Peter Ray, co-owner of Nevada City Crystal and Glass on North Pine Street.
If the BID continues, Ray said, it “will continue to grow and get better.”
KNOW & GO
WHAT: Nevada City council meeting regarding the Business Improvement District
WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday
WHERE: City Hall, 317 Broad St., Nevada City
To reach Staff Writer Josh Singer, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4234.
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