After a lengthy public hearing, Asheville City Council voted 6-0 to delay a vote on the controversial Business Improvement District proposal until Sept. 25 due to concerns about the governing structure, finances and details of its services.
The public hearing saw Council chambers and two overflow rooms packed. BID supporters arrived early and occupied the front rows of the chamber’s seats, sporting blue stickers. Outside, some of the BID’s opponents banged on drums and held a rally against the proposal.
Many of the BID proponents, including longtime planners, former downtown board members and business owners, emphasized their work in improving the area and asserted that the special tax and services district is necessary to keep it a regional and national attraction. Joe Minicozzi, for instance, noted the almost endless amount of cigarette butts that volunteers have removed from downtown streets; the BID would address this problem and others.
Opponents of BID ranged from hoteliers concerned about the tax burden to activists condemning the proposal as an undemocratic “city within a city” dominated by wealthy property owners. The public hearing ran for more than two hours. Downtown business owner and former Asheville Vice Mayor Chris Peterson criticized the BID plan.
Most of the Council members were supportive of the BID in principle and thanked the organizers for their work, but had concerns over the composition of its board, as well as its bylaws, financial details and powers. The consensus was that more time is needed to address these issues.
Council finally voted to delay the matter until Sept. 25, though some noted that they could choose to delay it again at that time if concerns are not resolved. As the BID failed to get approval before the July 1 beginning of the fiscal year, this means that the earliest a BID could get up and running is in the summer of 2013.
In other action, Council:
• passed a budget 5-1 for the upcoming year with a 2 percent raise for city staff, but promised to revisit the matter in the fall when sales tax revenues are better known, and raise salaries further if they’re doing well. The budget’s passage marked the end of a prolonged dispute over the size of a raise for staff.
Council member Cecil Bothwell was the sole dissenting vote, as he had hoped for a 3 percent increase.
• passed 6-0: $3.5 million in tax incentives and infrastructure improvements for the New Belgium brewery in the River Arts District.
• passed 6-0: over $500,000 in tax incentives for 176-units of housing, mostly workforce and affordable housing, on Glen Bridge Road in South Asheville.