|Posted by Anne Siren on March 19, 2013 at 12:20 AM|
By Michael d’Oliveira
Wilton Manors – This city is looking to make improvements on two specific business districts, Wilton Drive and Andrews Avenue. And town officials are hoping the property owners will pay for the improvements through a special assessment.
To do that, the city will create two Business Improvement Districts, or BIDs.
On Tuesday, city commissioners and the city’s Economic Development Task Force held a workshop to discuss the BIDs.
City officials have ideas for improving the two streets but want to hear first from the property owners who could end up paying.
“Let’s get boots on the ground [and survey the business and property owners],” said Nick Berry, chair of the Economic Task Force and co-owner of Courtyard Café and Rumors Bar & Grill, both on Wilton Drive.
The BIDs, which would have to be approved by a majority of property owners, create special tax assessment districts. Each BID would levy additional taxes on property owners that would in turn be used to improve the area.
In this case the funds could be used to pay for improvements to each street. The money generated by a BID would only be used to benefit that street.
Heidi Shafran, Community Development Services Department director, said each BID would be overseen by a board mostly made-up of property owners and tenants. The boards, which would be formed as non-profit entities, would have the final say over how the money in each district is spent and would not need commission approval. Property owners would also vote on the number of years the additional taxes would be levied.
There are plenty of suggestions for BID funds.
Commissioner Tom Green suggested landscaping could be added to the median along Andrews Avenue.
“We need to improve the streets there to attract businesses,” said Mayor Gary Resnick and Ilene Schnall, vice chair of the Economic Task Force, wanted more attention paid to the Avenue.
Wilton Drive would most likely see BID money dedicated to transforming the street from four to two-lanes with landscaping in the median and parking on both sides.
Vice Mayor Julie Carson said Powerline Road has also been neglected. To improve Powerline and the city’s portion of Oakland Park Boulevard, staff will hire a firm to make recommendations for rezoning.
To fund the BIDs, tax increases would be between 0.5 and 2.0 mills. Shafran estimates that the increase, depending on the millage rate, could generate between $38,000 and $152,000 annually for Wilton Drive and $7,000 and $31,000 per year for Andrews Avenue.
Resnick said the city could also use funds to market the Indian-themed business on Andrews Avenue and Oakland Park Boulevard. “We could market it as the Indian Village of Wilton Manors.”
Dean Trantalis, a member of the Economic Task Force whose law firm is on Wilton Drive, said he thinks owners won’t approve unless the goal is to make capital improvements. Increasing taxes to pay for trash cans, he said, won’t work.
Commissioner Scott Newton urged caution, saying that the city needs to make sure it’s not on the hook for any expenses when the BIDs expire.