In a few weeks, the Alexandria City Council will be considering the formulation of a Business Improvement District (BID) in Old Town. Initially, this proposal was to be strictly focused on waterfront business entities, but it now encompasses a gargantuan 17 blocks of retail business sites.
At the bequest of a few Old Town business owners, the Waterfront Commission formed a committee to investigate the feasibility of forming a BID, which was subsequently reported back to the Waterfront Commission as a good idea. However, although the full Waterfront Commission never approved the BID, it was subsequently sent to the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) for implementation.
Generally, the process for creating a BID involves three steps. First, a petition is sent to the city government to create the BID within a specified geographical area. Second, the city government ensures that the majority of businesses in the area are in favor of the BID, and third, the City Council enacts the legislation to create the BID.
However, in this case, the AEDP is eliminating step two, and sending it directly to the City Council. Why are they not following due process? The affected property owners (who will be taxed 10 cents on each hundred dollars of property value) should be able to decide if they wish to pay this large tax increase. In addition, the property owners who are landlords of businesses will pass this tax increase on these businesses, and ultimately, the consumers will also pay.
This undemocratically administered tax increase equates to nothing more than the establishment of another special tax zone for the city. Potomac Yards currently has two of them, one for 10 cents per hundred dollars, and the other for 20 cents per hundred dollars. No doubt the City Council will approve this initiative with alacrity, since it would allow them to have a $2.2 million windfall to spend as they see fit.
If City Council does pass this undemocratically developed initiative, one must hope that it will only tax commercial property owners of the district, not residential property owners. Since the purpose of a BID is to improve the business climate of a district, why would its residents pay an additional tax? It just doesn’t make good business sense.
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet