Economic improvement district sought

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer October 22, 2012 01:18 pm

Proposal to form district to fund downtown revitalization activities will be examined tonight at city council work session

La Grande Main Street will present its proposal on formation of an economic improvement district tonight at a city council work session.

The Main Street group is seeking formation of an improvement district to fund various downtown revitalization efforts. In its presentation Monday, it will unveil proposed district boundaries, and make a pitch for a .3 percent assessment on real market value of properties within the district.  

According to projections, the assessments would raise $80,000 a year for various activities aimed at improving the city’s core business area. Main Street is saying that an economic improvement district is an assessment for services received, and is not a tax.

In a previous regular meeting, the city council heard a first reading of an “enabling ordinance” that paves the way for district formation. The enabling ordinance allows the city to move forward with formation, but it does not include proposed boundaries and assessments. Those would be established in a separate ordinance, following public input.

Economic improvement districts are most frequently used to support and improve commercial areas and to increase retail opportunities. They can be funded by assessments or by business license fees, provided enough property owners within the boundaries of the proposed district agree to being assessed.

According to Oregon statute, no district can be formed if written objections are received from owners of properties upon which more than 33 percent of the total amount of assessments is levied. 

According to Main Street’s time frame, the city would hold public hearings on district formation December 5 and January 16. The group hopes for the district to be formed early in 2013.

Tonight’s presentation, 6 p.m. at City Hall, 1000 Adams Ave., will include talk by John Howard, a member of the Main Street board of directors, Main Street Program Coordinator Alana Garner and Main Street Downtown Improvement Steering Committee Chair Carol Campbell.

Work sessions provide the city council with a chance to informally discuss topics of concern and to exchange ideas, but not to make formal decisions or direct staff to take specific action.

The meetings are open to the public; however, generally public comments and questions are not entertained. Members of the public are routinely provided with the chance to address the mayor and council during regular session meetings.