City commissioners voted unanimously at their April 19 meeting to expand the boundaries of the business improvement district for the first time since it was established in 1989.
State law allows the city to create the neighborhood and also to expand the boundaries.
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The resolution to expand the district only affects the expanded area and the existing district does not have to be reinstated.
The BID was originally created in May 1989, recreated in 1999, again in 2009 and most recently in 2019.
BIDs are established for 10 years under state law, but can be renewed.
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A petition signed in favor of 71.21% of the landowners in the proposed expanded area has been submitted to the city and the law requires that at least 60% sign such a petition and then the governing body will establish or expand the district.
Joan Redeen, the only BID employee, said the expansion adds 20 new plots and 16 owners voted in favor of the expansion, which will add a special levy to remaining plots in the district to fund beautification. and other tasks, such as snow and garbage removal.
The BID also started the downtown pedlet program and runs the annual ArtsFEST Montana, which is the downtown mural festival every August.
The expansion is expected to increase district revenue by $15,848.
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She said two owners did not respond to the vote, which constitutes a no, and two owners voted against the expansion.
Redeen said that over the years the BID has provided $1.1 million in grants to downtown properties, but has had no grant programs in recent years. She said the council is currently discussing creating two grant schemes, one that would fund a month’s rent for a new business and another that would help with interior renovations.
Alison Friend, owner of Dragonfly Dry Goods and BID board member, said that when they vote to renew the BID, owners talk to each other about the benefits of the program and iron out any issues.
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Kellie Pierce, director of the Downtown Great Falls Association, said she works closely with the BID and although they have different specific boundaries and roles, the expansion “is a huge step forward in making the whole town center a town centre”.
Jolene Schalper, speaking as the owner of two downtown properties in the BID, said she was in favor and it was important to note that this is a self-tax. imposed by landowners in the district.
There was no opposition to the expansion.
Commissioner Joe McKenney said he has been contacted by many downtown property owners who support the expansion. He said no one had contacted him in opposition.
“It’s really not every day that a group comes to the city commission and says please raise our taxes, but it’s happening today and I will be voting for it,” said McKenney.
Commissioner Rick Tryon said it was “pretty amazing” that 16 landowners voted to include themselves in the district and impose the assessment on themselves.
“So you’re doing something good…enjoying everything you do,” Tryon said.
The goal of the BID is to maintain, beautify and stimulate development in the downtown historic district of Great Falls.
State law permits the establishment of business improvement districts for the purpose of promoting the health, safety, prosperity, security, and general welfare of the inhabitants of the district and to provide a special benefit to property owners located within the limits of the said district.
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The BID boundary has not changed since 1989, and there were 195 parcels inside the boundary, including some belonging to Cascade County and the City of Great Falls.
“The Municipal Commission for the City of Great Falls has determined that the Great Falls Business Improvement District promotes the health, safety, prosperity, security and general welfare of the residents of the City of Great Falls and has determined that the district offers special benefits to those properties located within its boundaries,” according to the staff report.