Downtown district tax will reap benefits for property owners

Cities impress us in many ways. Architecture, entertainment, cuisine, cultural life, walkability; the list goes on and on.

The cities that impress most usually have several things in common: It's easy to get information about what's going on, to find your way around once there, and they're consistently clean and well-maintained.

That doesn't happen by chance.

Many of the places we love to visit — from New Orleans to Seattle to Toronto to San Francisco — have business improvement districts, areas where property owners have agreed to tax themselves to improve things around them. There are about 1,200 of them in the United States. Many have been so successful, including one in Louisville, that they are reauthorized and expanded regularly.

The Downtown Lexington Corp., or DLC, wants Lexington's central business district to join this group, and it should.

DLC has prepared a petition to create the Downtown Lexington Management District. If it's approved, property owners would pay $100 per $100,000 of valuation to create a fund of about $280,000 a year to promote, beautify and clean up the area. The proposed district comprises much of High, Vine and Main streets downtown, with an irregular boundary on the north side that takes in several blocks of Short Street, some of Church Street, Cheapside Park and the county courthouses. (The Herald-Leader at Midland and Main streets is not in the district.)

It's important to note that the district would supplement rather than replace work local government already does. Streetsweepers and sanitation workers still will clean up downtown, for example, but district employees also might sweep and power wash sidewalks and alleys. As with historic districts, it's common that property values stabilize and even increase when an area is energized to create this kind of added support.

DLC has mailed packets with the petitions and information to property owners, held meetings open to the public and is involved in one-on-one conversations to answer questions and encourage participation.

In order to petition the Urban County Council to create the district, positive votes must be received from 51 percent of the property by value and 33 percent by ownership.

About two weeks after the ballots were mailed, the district is a little more than halfway to receiving the needed positive votes.

The proposal includes a sunset clause so that in 2019 property owners will have a chance to say no if they aren't happy. While that rarely happens with these districts, it is an important accountability measure.

We have little doubt DLC has done its homework and will get the numbers it needs, but we urge owners to swell the numbers and give this effort a rousing endorsement.

To learn more go to Downtownlex.com.