Monday, April 01, 2013

More On Mass Avenue Economic Improvement District

I previously told you about organized opposition that has been mounted by some Mass Avenue business owners who don't want to see an economic improvement district formed within the business district. As a first step in attaining the EID designation that would allow for the creation of the special taxing district, the proponents must first win the approval of property owners representing at least 50% of the assessed valued within the proposed taxing district. At that point, it would go before the City-County Council for final approval.

One complaint of the opponents is the lack of a clear vision on how tax revenues generated by the EID would be spent. Advance Indiana has obtained a very broad, tentative budget outline that would allocate revenues from the proposed district within the following parameters:

Capital Improvements (30% to 50%)
Economic Development (15% to 25%)
Streetscape and Enhanced Maintenance (20% to 40%)
Administration (10% to 20%)

The two major stakeholders within the proposed taxing district pushing the hardest for the EID's approval is the Riley Area Development Corporation, which would be responsible for handling administrative-related costs for the EID, and the Athenaeum Foundation. RADC is already the beneficiary of an annual grant that has been awarded to the business district to maintain landscaping within the business district. The principal of Schmidt & Associates, Wayne Schmidt, has done a great deal of the planning behind the EID. One of the opponents noted Schmidt's firm plans to bill the EID $30,000 for its pre-planning services related to the EID if it is successfully created.

Opponents of the EID fear that the new taxing district will be controlled by a clique that will include representatives of two nonprofits which don't currently pay any property taxes, RADC and the Athenaeum Foundation. Schmidt & Associates Sarah Hempstead is the current president of RADC, while Wayne Schmidt serves as Vice President of the Athenaeum Foundation. The opponents complain that the proponents have been continually redrawing the boundaries of the district in a way that ensures they will reach the magical number it needs to petition the council for approval of the special taxing district.

If the Mass Ave business district is successful in creating an EID, this could become a popular trend that will spread to other communities throughout the city and around the state. Although the law permitting EIDs has been on the books for a number of years, the economic development tool has been rarely used to date.

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