We've reported here before at some length on Downtown Durham Inc.'s proposal for a business improvement district (BID) downtown -- essentially, a special taxing district that, coupled with a reformulation of non-profit Downtown Durham Inc.'s governance structure, would allow DDI to receive additional funding on real and personal property in the downtown area.
Those funds, if the BID is approved, would go to a "clean and green" program downtown, along with additional marketing for downtown events and additional economic development activities.
We've also noted that the public meetings called by DDI on the question saw some support, some questions, and some opposition -- particularly that led by Hank Scherich, CEO of Measurement Inc. and the second-largest downtown propertyholder. Unlike many of the other downtown investors, who can recoup (in theory at least) costs like taxes into rents or other pass-throughs, Scherich's educational testing firm occupies the buildings directly, making any offset difficult.
(As readers of the comments here know, there was also some significant opposition, it seemed, from condo sites like the Bullington on N. Duke St. and the Trinity Lofts complex at Trinity Ave. Both of those sites were excised from the BID district last month.)
Last night's City Council meeting was the chance for elected officials to vote on the matter. And as the H-S' Ray Gronberg notes in a well-reported story this morning, the answer is no answer -- for now.
The usual voices got up to speak their support or opposition, and based on the players active in earlier meetings, there weren't many surprises, it seems, in who's supporting and who's opposed to the district.
The most interesting datum in Gronberg's reporting: the assertion by DDI leaders that the district had the support of property owners representing more than a quarter of downtown's taxable base, with the remaining quarter in opposition.
But the Council has deferred a vote until May 2, with Gronberg noting that Mayor Bell himself is planning to bring some idea forward on how to proceed at that time.
It's never dull from a Council perspective when Bill Bell gets involved in brokering a decision; usually, it means that he sees political sensitivity on both sides of an item and wants to find some kind of slide-in compromise to at least assuage both sides.
In this case, it's hard to see what that middle road might be.
A number of opponents -- particularly those who own spaces at downtown's periphery, or who run service businesses to which "clean and green" sidewalks don't seem all that compelling -- called for funding a BID through some other means, like taxing DPAC or ballpark tickets or having a surcharge on parking. The idea being, of course, that those marketing and appearance services support visitor-oriented services.
On the other hand, DDI staff have demurred about the legal viability of such a proposal, whereas the BID structure has support in the NC General Statutes and is used in most major city downtowns in North Carolina, including Raleigh and soon in Chapel Hill.
So just what compromise does hizonner have in mind? We'll find out May 2, it seems.