City seeks changes in business district

December 06, 2006 12:00 am

By Hilary Corrigan

Triplicate staff writer

Crescent City could revamp its downtown business improvement district.

City manager Eli Naffah met with leaders of the civic group Tuesday to consider options.

Those include enforcing fee collections, revoking business licences of owners who fail to pay and replacing the downtown business improvement district with a new merchants' group that could include businesses on U.S. Hwy. 101.

Among other downtown projects, the business improvement district plants flowers, helps run annual events and hosts the holiday parade and tree lighting.

The group formed in 1993 by a city law that calls for it to grow into a nonprofit and manage its affairs from fees that city staff collect.

Group members have complained of a lack of city effort in collecting that money and in helping to plan events.

"If the BID wants to continue, we definitely need a better way to do this," said city Councilwoman Kelly Schellong, noting some business owners who want to join but have not been billed. "That is definitely something that needs to be addressed."

City ordinances fail to specify collections measures and penalties.

"The real problem here is really billing," Naffah said, asking group members to draft suggestions for City Council to review.

Business improvement district members also plan to reach more business owners in the downtown boundaries by crafting newsletters and distributing information on the group, its projects, event dates and meeting schedules.

But not all find the effort worthwhile.

Matt Kime, who works at Custom Dezign Graphics, said that the fee comes without business owners' permission.

Kime also noted empty, high-rent storefronts that line the downtown district's streets and questioned the group's organization and lack of a budget after operating for more than a decade.

"And you still haven't gotten your funding worked out in 13 years?" he asked. "In 13 years, what's BID actually done for the community?"