ACRA adds its voice to BID discussion | AspenTimes.com

ACRA adds its voice to BID discussion

Janet Urquhart

Ongoing discussions about the formation of a Business Improvement District in downtown Aspen will involve the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.The ACRA board of directors voted Tuesday to take part in the conversation, though the chamber has not taken a position on whether Aspen’s commercial core should ultimately form a district.Forming an operating plan for the district – how much it would cost businesses and property owners within it, and what it would do – is the next step, according to Brad Segal, a Denver consultant who has visited Aspen twice to discuss formation of a BID.He is not yet under contract, but that may be the next step.The city of Aspen has put up $27,500 in seed money to assess the business community’s desires for a BID, with a matching amount to come from the commercial sector.Bill Dinsmoor, chairman of the Commercial Core and Lodging Commission, said he has verbal commitments for the matching funds but not the actual dollars. The lodging commission has been spearheading exploration of the BID so far, with the support of one prominent downtown landlord, Dinsmoor said.The next step in the BID process, coming up with an operating plan, means eliciting input from the business community, Segal advised. If a BID proposal moves forward next year, a petition drive among property owners and businesses within the district should occur from March to May, with City Council approval of the district’s formation between June and October, Segal said. Then, property owners and residents within the district would vote next November to establish the tax or assessment imposed within the district. Only commercial entities would pay the tax; residential property is exempt, though residents would get to vote.Nationally, BID assessments average 15 to 25 cents per square foot, Segal said. A 1,000-square-foot shop would face a $250 bill annually if the assessment is 25 cents per square foot. A BID board of directors, not local government, controls the revenues.One way to use BID revenues is to boost marketing funds in Aspen. The resort has about $500,000 annually in lodging tax revenues to spend on non-winter marketing, board member Warren Klug noted.”A lot of us have been scratching our heads for years about how we could increase that number,” he said.Parking and transportation also come up as issues the commercial sector could address through a BID, Dinsmoor said.”Those are the ones that keep bubbling up,” he said.Rick Jones, chairman of the ACRA board, said he supports the BID concept but opposes putting the chamber’s resources toward the effort. The ACRA already participates, as three chamber members serve on the Commercial Core and Lodging Commission, he added.The rest of the board, however, did not rule out additional ACRA backing of the BID initiative.”Why don’t we just say, ‘yes, this looks like a very interesting process that’s unfolding. We want to be a part of it,'” board member Stan Clauson said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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