The issue of whether or not the Village of Garden City would put forth $30,000 in order that the business community could hire a consultant to consider establishing a Business Improvement District (BID) was raised once again at the village board meeting on Thursday night, as a resident questioned what needs the BID would meet that could not be met otherwise by the village.
According to Trustee John Mauk, who is the chair of the board's subcommittee studying the BID, the key needs that the BID would meet would be the ability for the businesses to have a more unified approach to advertising and marketing the business establishments in the Franklin Avenue/Seventh Street area.
Peter Negri, the resident who raised the original question, then asked if the chamber of commerce couldn't meet this need better, more efficiently and quicker than if it went through the whole process of establishing a BID. Mayor Harold Hecken responded with the explanation that one of the advantages of the BID is that it is a financial set up where the people who become the recipients of the benefits of the BID are able to tax themselves in order to obtain those benefits. He went on to note that right now the chamber of commerce doesn't have any program other than fund raisers to collect money for this purpose.
Deputy Mayor Robert Lewis noted, "We asked the representatives who were here [at last month's board meeting] to identify the goals. We, as trustees, just like you, would like to know what the goals of the BID are going to be." He went on to state that his impression is that a BID can be renewed year to year, that if a BID doesn't meet its goals or goes in another direction that it wasn't established for, it may not necessarily be funded. "By establishing the goals, we'll all have a clearer idea of where we're going with this, what we're going to accomplish," said Lewis, noting that originally he was not particularly in favor of the BID. He then considered that from 1995 to this year there has been the biggest expansion seen in the county and the village, even with the investment of millions of dollars have not been able to fill all the stores on Franklin Avenue. "I was not a believer in the BID," said Lewis. "But I'm willing to go fund the consultants and let them try because my belief is that we can't take it to the next level."
Trustee Bruce Torino noted that Negri's confusion was shared by the trustees, which is why the subcommittee was set up. He noted that they are now asking more probing questions, such as Negri has presented. The subcommittee has asked the chamber of commerce committee on the BID to refine their presentation, to articulate refined goals, and to give justification that the BID will achieve the goals that they have outlined. "We, like you, are of the opinion that a BID, solely for the purpose of filling a store for a particular land owner may not be a proper function, but if you have a BID that works for the greater good of all the business community, that may be a legitimate function that the village would have difficulty filling," stated Torino. "The ability to have a voluntary organization such as the chamber secure enough financing to achieve that task is quite daunting. You need to have the leverage of a taxing authority." The BID would be that taxing authority.
Torino noted that before the trustees get the answers to their questions, nothing else will be done.
Russell Matthews, of the Albanese development Corporation, a member of the BID committee made an attempt to answer some of the questions being raised. "What the BID is designed to do is deal with the fragmented ownership that you have in Garden City that is typical of every downtown cluster across the country and that is why there are thousands of BIDs across the country," said Matthews. He noted that they are designed to manage the business in a way similar to how Roosevelt Field or other malls can but that small businesses cannot under ordinary circumstances. He went on to explain that Garden City retailers are in competition with places like Roosevelt Field, who have coordinated advertising and marketing. "When you have fragmented ownership you have some owners who are trying to do what we're doing but not everybody is pulling the same oar," said Matthews. "It's a way of forcing them, through the assessment, to participate, at least financially, in what everyone is trying to do."
According to Matthews the consultant they want to hire would help develop this plan, which will help retailers get $2 for every $1 they contribute.
Althea Robinson, executive director of the chamber of commerce and member of the BID committee, concluded that if the village lays out the money for the consultant, they would be reimbursed by the BID once it is up and running.