Final decision on city BID draws near

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(File photo by MARY MALONE) While the flower baskets and Christmas lights are enjoyed by many members of the Business Improvement District, the city's independent consultant recommends dismantling the current Business Improvement District and "pushing a reset button."

SANDPOINT — After an extensive outreach process over the past several months, the top recommendation by Roger Woodworth, the city’s independent consultant, is to stop the current Business Improvement District and “push a restart button.”

“One of the things that has been happening in your community for a long time is people have been expressing legitimate concerns about the BID and how it’s not been operating, or the things it has been operating on that haven’t been very effective in the way they’ve been conducted,” Woodworth said.

Between listening sessions, workshops, hiring an independent consultant, a survey administered by Boise State University graduate students, emails, fliers and individual outreach by city staff and Woodward, several efforts have been made to reach out to BID members throughout the process.

“Truly I would say that this effort on the BID and the outreach efforts that have gone along with this are, arguably, probably the most extensive outreach on a project that we have ever had,” said city administrator Jennifer Stapleton.

Unfortunately, Stapleton said, the city did not see the participation they hoped to achieve. During his engagement efforts, Woodworth heard from about 75 BID members. The survey process saw a bit more response at 144 of 471 distributed, which is about a 31-percent response rate.

Nobody who did respond, though, wanted to keep the BID exactly as is, Woodworth said.

“Some people want to keep it, some people want to get rid of it,” he said. “But everybody says, if it is going to go forward, it needs a refresh. You can’t just keep doing what you’ve been doing — It’s not working.”

Woodworth offers several recommendations in his final report, including the first “core recommendation” of halting the BID. Under this recommendation, Woodworth states the “simplest” way forward is to terminate the current BID. By halting BID activities, the city saves costs and “puts the onus on businesses to either work together or establish a new BID for specific purpose or go without.”

A more “surgical” approach under this recommendation, Woodworth’s report says, is to reset BID fees. Doing this would pause current operation while keeping the BID boundary intact and may also “lessen the negative connotation of outright termination.” The option would allow a future restart of the full BID.

The second “core recommendation” by Woodworth is to set strict standards for new BIDs by ordinance. Setting minimum standards for BID design and operation by ordinance, Woodworth stated in his report, will help assure equity and fairness of any BID in the future. Additional ideas for consideration by City Council listed by Woodworth include, explicitly define the core of “downtown” for planning purposes, distinguish the city by managing downtown like a park, strengthen city support of business via an ombudsman, and leverage funds via matching grants.

Council members will review Woodworth’s final report next week during the Aug. 2 meeting, and resolutions included in the agenda propose to disestablish the BID or reset the BID rates to zero, as per Woodworth’s first “core recommendation.” Either resolution will require a public hearing to be scheduled for Sept. 6.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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