The Business Improvement District Board appointed its leaders at its latest meeting, on March 7th.
Josh Johnson, of Columbus Bank and Trust, was named the board’s chairman; Kevin Johnson, of Wize Buys, was named vice chairman; and Barbara Duffy, of Barbara Jean's, assumed the role of secretary.
“I would describe it as excited. We’ve been working on making collective change to downtown Columbus now for a couple of years,” said Josh Johnson, a Columbus native who moved back to town three years ago after 18 years away. “It’s great to be able to contribute on this type of level where hopefully we have some of those dreams and wants so many people have expressed can come to fruition.”
Those three were in attendance with fellow board members Lindsay Thomson, of Inspired by Soul Photography; Mary Nyffeler, of Treasures; Cory Reeder, of Reeder’s; and Robert “Bob” Stachura, of Columbus Tire. Joining them were Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen and City Administrator Tara Vasicek.
The latest BID meeting took place in a conference room at City Hall, where the board and City leaders discussed feedback received in a public hearing during the City Council’s Feb. 21st meeting. As proposed then, the general area of the BID would be between 11th and 12th streets to the area between 15th and 16th streets from 21st to 33rd avenues.
The BID board’s focus during Monday’s meeting was to talk about some of the points brought up by the community during the public hearing in hopes to reevaluate and amend plans before going back to the City Council at a yet-to-be-determined date.
The board discussed shrinking the Business Improvement District’s boundaries per feedback and mapped out the west boundary as 33rd Avenue (“because it’s the gateway to downtown”), the alleyway between 11th and 12th streets as the south boundary; 23rd Avenue serving as the east boundary; and the alleyway between 14th and 15th streets making the north boundary.
The public hearing in February also brought up the idea of an evaluation period for the board, which members during Monday’s meeting indicated could be a good plan to ensure progress. The board is already required to provide an annual report about the effectiveness of the BID to the City Council and is now considering providing the same to property owners in the district.
The board is also looking to reevaluate assessments. It was previously announced that a $200 assessment per $100,000 of valuation would be used for calculating the assessment of the properties. Owner-occupied single-family residences would be excluded from the district, as would tax-exempt properties such as churches and government-owned properties (businesses that have residential rental units on their second story would still be included).
At the meeting, Josh Johnson also asked the rest of the board to bring a list of three priority projects the BID could look at: One that could be completed relatively quickly, a project that takes a little more time and then a dream big effort.
Jean Van Iperen later said improvements made using BID funds are not ones the City of Columbus would traditionally use taxpayer money to do, including wayfinding signage that tells people how to get to a park or business. The BID would really involve small projects, such as the installation of banners or the promotion of downtown events.
Van Iperen said she was pleased with how the meeting went. Kristin Stock, of Artzy Haven, and Dick Tooley, of Tooley’s Drug & Home Care, are also on the board but were unable to make the March 7th meeting.
“I think the board did a really good job of taking the comments received from the public hearing, doing things like reevaluating the boundaries and looking at possible options for assessments. The conversation is still ongoing," she said.
The board will meet again at noon on March 20th at City Hall, 2424 14th St. in Columbus, to continue discussing its options. Once things are decided upon, a public forum will be held in hopes to bring in property owners and give them a chance to provide more input and ask questions before it is brought back to the Columbus City Council.
“As the meetings progress, I think we will become more detail-oriented to continue to hone in on what needs to be accomplished,” Josh Johnson said.
The board could also potentially decide to not proceed with establishing a BID at all, but if an ordinance to create a BID ultimately is presented to the council, property owners in the BID would be notified.