November 27, 2008 in Voices

Cheney exploring improvement plan

Pooling of funds would fund projects
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Business and property owners in the city of Cheney may form a Business Improvement District to pool their resources and improve things like cleanliness, safety, promotions and parking.

“We’re here to talk about the process of creating a Business Improvement District for Cheney,” said Spencer Grainger, the interim director of Pathways to Progress.

Pathways brought in panel speakers Marty Dickinson of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, developer Ron Wells of Wells and Co., and Stanley Schwartz, the city attorney for Cheney and one of the lawyers involved in creating a BID in Spokane.

They met with business and property owners from the city to learn about what a BID could do for them and the city.

Schwartz said that to form a BID, at least 60 percent of business and property owners need to agree to the idea. A petition would be signed and brought to the City Council for a public hearing and a vote on an ordinance to establish it.

From there, the process would establish how much each business and property would contribute.

A separate organization would distribute funds to projects throughout the district. The funds could be used to clean, beautify, create security or market the district to increase business.

Wells said he was involved with the creation of the BID in downtown Spokane in 1995. He said their goal was to get more than 60 percent to agree, and recalled that nearly 75 percent of owners signed the petition.

“Downtown Spokane’s success of renewal would be a fraction of what it is without the Business Improvement District,” he said.

Dickinson said the difference BID has made on the downtown core can be seen by comparing businesses along Third Avenue with the ones along Post north of the railroad tracks that cut across town.

Projects in downtown Spokane include the Security Ambassadors, a team of workers who give visitors directions, assist in medical emergencies and help control disturbances; the Clean Team, a group that cleans up graffiti, picks up litter and garbage and helps remove snow and ice from sidewalks; flower pots and garbage cans to beautify the area; and banners to promote special events.

Dickinson said Spokane renews its BID every three years, but property and business owners are assessed once a year.

If someone purchases a business or property at the end of a year, there is a one-year grace period. Small and large businesses are assessed differently; fees also vary depending on location.

“It may make sense to try it for a year,” Schwartz said.

The idea of a Cheney BID is in its early stages. Grainger said Pathways is looking to form a committee and hold more discussions.

Anyone interested in joining the discussion should call Pathways to Progress at 559-5818.

Contact staff writer Lisa Leinberger at 459-5449 or by e-mail at lisal@spokesman.com.

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