On a recent trip to downtown San Antonio, Renee Jackson walked 10 blocks before she saw her first cigarette butt or a piece of trash.
That's not the case in Lexington, said Jackson, the executive director of the Downtown Development Corporation.
"We have a very dirty downtown," Jackson said. "Some people may not notice it, because they see it everyday. But it's something that visitors see and remember."
The Downtown Development Corp. is pushing a new downtown management district that would collect a tax — 10 cents on every $100 of assessed property — to provide clean up, snow removal and other beautification efforts to make downtown more inviting, safer and clean.
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The boundaries of the proposed management district are Midland Avenue, High Street, parts of Second Street and Newtown Pike. The district includes 567 parcels — 265 are commercial, 206 residential and 26 are tax exempt — such as government buildings, churches and other nonprofits.
The development corporation, a nonprofit membership organization that promotes downtown, has the necessary signatures of property owners needed to create the district, but still must get Urban County Council approval. The council will discuss the proposal at Tuesday's council work session. A previous effort to create a management district was defeated by the council in 2013.
But backers of the district say they have more support in 2015 than they did in 2013.
"We have exceeded the number of signatures needed to create the district," Jackson said.
State law that established the management districts requires that 33 percent of landowners in the proposed district sign a petition. Those 33 percent of landowners must represent 51 percent of the total taxable property in the district.
The Downtown Development Corporation has 51 percent of all taxpaying property owners who own 62.5 percent of the taxable property, Jackson said.
A total of 175 property owners have signed the petition.
The total amount of money the district would generate each year is $362,000, based on property tax revenue estimates.
If the district is approved by council, the management district would have its own board, which would determine how the tax dollars are used.
Typically, management districts hire additional staff to help clean streets, remove snow and help with additional beautification efforts. While Jackson was in San Antonio's management district, the same people who help clean streets also act as ambassadors, helping people find attractions.
"As soon as I left that district, it was just a much different feel, you noticed the trash on the ground," Jackson said of her walk in San Antonio.
Another possible perk of a downtown management district — removing snow from sidewalks. City ordinances say that's the property owner's responsibility. But during this winter's snow storms, many residents complained; walking on city sidewalks was too treacherous because not all businesses kept sidewalks cleared.
Still, many on council are concerned about another tax.
Councilmember Ed Lane, who has an office in the Chase Bank tower, which is in the proposed district boundaries, did not support the district in 2013 and said recently that he still has concerns.
"I'm not sure if we need a new tax," Lane said. "I'm concerned that some of the larger buildings have agreed to it but will eventually pass that cost on to its tenants. We already have to pay for parking for downtown offices. But if you are in the suburbs or the rural areas, parking is free."
Woodford Webb, president of the Webb Companies, counters that a proposed management district will only help, not hurt downtown businesses. The Webb Companies' affiliated companies own more than six parcels in the proposed management district and have pushed for its creation.
"I think it would spur economic development," Webb said. "It is a proven vehicle to enhance downtown. We are one of the largest cities in the country that does not have a downtown management district. Studies show that it actually enhances property values."
Jackson said that the district automatically sunsets after five years. If the district is not liked by property owners, it can be dissolved.
But that rarely happens, Jackson said.
Louisville, for example, has had a management district since the early 1990s. It has not only been renewed, "it has been expanded several times," Jackson said.
If the council approves the creation of the new district at Tuesday's council work session, the ordinance creating the district will get a first reading later this month. A public hearing must be held before the council gives it a second reading and a final vote.
Councilmember Jake Gibbs, whose council district includes most of the proposed management district, said he has not been contacted by any landowner yet that opposes it.
"I support it and I think it will be enhance downtown," said Gibbs. "I am hopeful that because they have exceeded the minimum threshold of property owners that it will pass this year."