1) More on a Pike District Bid 2) Implementation Committee Meeting Tonight

Bethesda Beat wrote a terrific story (even with the misspelling of the FOWF’s executive director’s name) about the enabling legislation passed by the state to allow BIDS to be formed, including in the Pike District.

Forming White Flint Urban District Could Get Boost from New State Legislation

A BID could act as “cheerleader” for Pike District, local advocate says

White Flint advocate Amy Ginsberg daydreams about holding 5K races and happy hours in the area’s Pike District. Hosting local dog fairs and events for children. Beautifying the roadside with flower plantings.

But for many years, she said, efforts to realize these visions have been stymied by burdensome state rules for establishing business improvement districts (BIDs), organizations focused on marketing and energizing specific areas. Now, she and others are celebrating the passage of state legislation that could make it easier to form these districts in Montgomery County.

“I think this moves the ball down the field considerably,” said Ginsberg, executive director of Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit focused on supporting the area’s evolution. “We will hopefully have the Pike District BID, and it will be able to do really creative, innovative things that will attract businesses, families and visitors.”

The Pike District, which stretches along a 2.5-mile section of Rockville Pike, is undergoing a transformation into an urbanized, walkable community and was named a couple years ago to distinguish it from the rest of White Flint. The district is home to the Pike & Rose development, a burgeoning area where restaurants, offices, homes and stores exist side-by-side.

Traditionally, businesses and property owners band together to create a BID, with the common goal of attracting more shoppers and clients to an area. By levying an annual charge on commercial property, a BID can pay for programs to pick up litter, care for parks, plan events and improve walkability. The model has helped bring vitality to areas in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia, said Sen. Will Smith (D-Silver Spring) a lead proponent of the recent BID bill.

State lawmakers in 2010 passed enabling legislation allowing counties and municipalities to approve BIDs, but it set up such strict parameters that none of the organizations has gotten off the ground in Montgomery County, Smith said. To form a BID, the law required support from at least 80 percent of the nonresidential property owners inside the proposed district boundary, a level of consensus that Ginsberg and Smith said is almost impossible to achieve.

“We know the benefit of BIDs, but essentially, that 80-percent threshold has held up the process,” Smith said.

The bill passed this session would only require 51-percent support and, in certain circumstances, would allow condo groups to join commercial property owners in pushing for a BID. County or municipal leaders would then hold a public hearing on the matter before deciding whether to authorize the district.

Tom Murphy, chairman of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Council, said Smith’s bill brightens the outlook for supporters of a Pike District BID.

“I think the chances that it’s going to happen are very, very good,” he said.

The advisory council is already working to craft a BID proposal for presentation to the County Council this fall, Murphy said.

Once formed, the BIDs would be governed by a board of directors appointed by property owners inside the district and could start charging fees to finance projects and receive funding from the state or local government, according to legislative analysts. For instance, Murphy said a Pike District BID might levy a small assessment based on square footage.

The bill, which applied only to Montgomery County, sailed through the legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature. If the measure takes effect Oct. 1, it could enable BIDs in areas like the Pike District and Wheaton, Smith said. Ginsberg said she’s also heard Silver Spring property owners are interested.

Even with a change in state law, creating a BID wouldn’t be a quick process, but many communities could see “huge benefits” from pursing it, Smith said.

Ginsberg agreed.

“Over the next 20 years, the [Pike District] is going to be the centerpiece of Montgomery County, where people will live, work and play. In order to make that happen, you need a guiding hand and an enthusiastic cheerleader, and that would be the BID,” Ginsberg said.

 

There will be a White Flint Implementation Meeting committee tonight at 7pm at the Shriver Aquatic Center.

White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee supports BID legislation

The following letter was provided to the Montgomery Country Delegation, the Honorable Nancy King and the Honorable Shane Robinson, by the the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee on December 5th, 2016.

 

Dear Senator King and Delegate Robinson,

I am writing to you on behalf of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee to express the Committee’s strong support for MC 12-17, to alter the approval requirements to create and expand a Business Improvement District (BID) in Montgomery County. We thank Delegate Will Smith for his leadership on this important legislation.

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee was charged by the County Executive and County Council to make recommendations on the eventual establishment of an urban services district in the White Flint Sector Plan Area, also known as the Pike District. Our committee includes local residents, businesses, and property owners.

After reviewing the tools available to accomplish this, we believe BIDs are a proven model to supplement existing government services and enhance public safety, marketing and events, neighborhood beautification, and infrastructure. BIDs are the future of economic development and have swept across the nation in the last few decades. BIDs are successful because they place these important services in the hands of local stakeholders. Unfortunately, the current 80% approval requirement makes forming a BID a daunting task and none have been formed in the state since the original legislation in 2010.

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee strongly supports MC 12-17 because it will facilitate the formation of BIDs in Montgomery County and provide the County a real mechanism to compete with D.C. and Virginia in terms of economic development, marketing, and place-making.

MC 12-17 changes the approval requirement to 51% of individual property owners AND 51% of the assessed value within the proposed district. This lower requirement puts us in line with BIDs in the District of Columbia and Virginia. Additionally, the bill allows rental residential properties – a commercial use – to benefit from BID services.

In addition, we respectfully request two edits to improve the governance provisions in the legislation. The legislation currently specifies that a BID would have five (5) Board members, with three (3) Board members required for a quorum. We think this should be revised to allow flexibility in determining the appropriate size of a Board based upon specific circumstances, as follows:

1. Sec. 12-605(B)(1) currently provides that a Board “consists of five members.” (See Page 4, Line 22). We would propose that a Board “consists of a minimum of five members.”

2. Sec. 12-605(D)(1) currently provides, “Three voting members of the Board are a quorum,” (See Page 5, Line 3). We would propose, “A majority of members of a Board are a quorum.”

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Thomas D. Murphy

Chair

It’s all about the BID

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?”

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