Downtown Edmonds Business Improvement District approved 4-3
By a 4-3 vote and following a lengthy period of questioning and discussion, the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night approved a proposal to create a Business Improvement District in downtown Edmonds.
BIDs are special assessment areas established under Washington State law to maintain and enhance specific business districts. The Edmonds BID includes the area of downtown Edmonds as shown on the map at the left.
The fact that the map did not extend further into the waterfront areas of Edmonds was a bone of contention for some business owners who testified during the public hearing portion of Tuesday night’s meeting. The feeling was that waterfront businesses will benefit from the BID’s efforts to bring more visitors to downtown Edmonds to shop and dine, and that they should also be assessed.
That concern was acknowledged by the councilmembers (Lora Petso, Joan Bloom and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas) who voted against the BID proposal in favor of taking more time to consider immediate expansion as well as address other questions. However, City of Edmonds Economic Development Director Stephen Clifton and City Attorney Jeff Taraday agreed that the council could expand the BID to include the waterfront and other downtown areas in the future, as long as the appropriate public process is followed.
Creating a BID provides a local funding mechanism whereby businesses assess themselves to fund programs designed to help fulfill goals related to activities such as marketing, promoting special events, security, beautification, parking, clean-up and administration of the BID. A total of 149 businesses out of the 313 in the BID area signed up to support the concept, and their assessments will exceed the 50-percent threshold required by state law.
“A Business Improvement District brings focused and dedicated resources, a united voice that builds on the best that Edmonds has to offer,” Edmonds Bookshop owner and BID Committee member MaryKay Sneeringer told the council Tuesday night.
The assessment structure has two categories: one for “open door” businesses (restaurants, retailers, banks, etc.), and one for “by appointment” (hair salons, doctors, lawyers, nail salons, insurance providers, counselors, financial advisors and others). It assesses retail establishments at a higher rate than service and professional businesses. The assessment is based on square footage and will cost each business in the zone from $120 to $600 per year.
More than 20 business owners signed up to testify during a public hearing on the proposal. A slight majority were in favor; among those opposed were business owners who had signed up initially but said they were having second thoughts about participating. Those concerns, along with questions about whether the BID boundaries should be expanded and if city staff time should be devoted to administering the bid during tight budgetary times, prompted “no” votes from Councilmembers Bloom and Petso. Fraley-Monillas stated she fully supported the BID concept but wanted more time to explore public concerns.
Now that the measure has been approved, the next step is for Mayor Dave Earling to appoint an interim member advisory board comprised of BID members — representing both open door and by appointment businesses. That board will submit a work plan to city council within 90 days outlining how it intends to spend money on a well as bylaws and policy guidelines. The city council will have oversight regarding how the money is spent.
Following the vote, long-time Edmonds BID leader David Arista of Arista Wine Cellars said that the committee was grateful for the council’s support and the group is ready to roll up its sleeves to accomplish the next steps. “The hard work begins now” with development of the work plan and bylaws, he said.