It was all about the BID, not the bass, at Tuesday’s White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee meeting. Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have a wide variety of names, structures, funding mechanisms, reporting requirements, and missions, but all BIDs are connected to their local government to varying degrees and provide essential services to their area, including branding, economic development, maintenance, and community building.
Craig Howard and Stephanie Bryant of the Office of Legislative Oversight reviewed their recent report “Case Studies of Local Business and Community Districts.” They noted that cleaning and maintenance programs are often the initial goals of a BID but the most successful ones expand into economic development and marketing organizations as well. There is an essential planning and outreach phase during the initial formation of a BID before obtaining government approval.
The conversation soon turned to the question of how a BID in the Pike District could be funded and formed. There were more questions than answers as Committee members debated the impact of state legal requirements, charter limits, tax assessments, service delivery metrics, boundaries, differing commercial and residential assessments, and staffing.
The Committee referred to the Bethesda Urban Partnership BID which has a $3.4 million budget and thirty employees. About eighty percent of their funding comes from parking meter and fee revenue. The Pike District has no county garages that could provide parking meter funding for their BID.
Councilmember Roger Berliner reminded everyone that he believed that decentralizing economic development is important and that BIDS can play a critical role in that. He added, ““This is an important time to have a different kind of conversation. Are people comfortable with taxing themselves for these purposes and what is the rate?”