Neighborhoods start process for establishing new districts

The coming weeks promise to be busy for leaders with two Northside community groups, who are pushing forward with plans to implement “community improvement districts” (CIDs).

More than three months after the legislature approved a bill allowing for CIDs, the Greater Belhaven Foundation (GBF) and the LeFleur East Foundation are slowly but surely working toward establishing the special taxing districts in their communities.

In September, GBF hopes to begin hosting a series of meetings to discuss plans and to hear from neighbors about what should be included in their CID master plan.

“We can’t develop it until we have meetings with the neighbors,” said GBF Executive Director Casey Creasey. “It impacts them tremendously and we want to have their ideas.”

Meanwhile, LeFleur East has hired an attorney and a planning consultant to help determine its CID boundaries.

Foundation officials are also reaching out to various neighborhoods within LeFleur East to explain how the CID would work and how it would affect residents across the foundation’s coverage area.

Once set up, property owners in the districts would pay an additional fee on top of their annual property taxes, which would go to fund public improvements within their districts. 

To form the districts, though, groups like GBF and LeFleur East have to get buy-in from the community.

According to the legislation, 60 percent of home and property owners in the affected area must sign a petition in support of the district before a CID is considered.

The association or foundation then has to submit that petition to the city, as well as documents showing the boundaries of the district and a master plan explaining how CID funds would be used.

From there, the city would determine a tax rate that would generate enough revenues to cover improvements spelled out in the master plan, and that rate, along with the master plan, would be taken back to residents one more time for approval. Again, 60 percent of home and property owners in the proposed CID would have to sign on.

See Improvement Districts, Page 6A

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Only neighborhoods in Jackson are eligible for the districts, according to the legislation.

Both groups have their work cut out for them. Greater Belhaven has about 1,800 parcels in two neighborhoods. Belhaven runs from Riverside Drive in the north to Fortification Street in the South. East to west, it stretches from I-55 North to North State Street.

The Belhaven Heights area runs from Fortification south to High Street and from I-55 North to North Street in the west.

Belhaven’s CID committee met for the first time about two weeks ago.

The committee is made up of representatives of the Belhaven and Belhaven Heights communities, the Belhaven Improvement Association, the Belhaven Security Association and the area’s business community, Creasey said.

The committee is tasked with putting together the master plan, setting the district’s boundaries and drawing up language for the petition.

GBF also plans to host several information meetings in the neighborhood beginning in September.

The master plan will not be finalized until those meetings are held. The district boundaries also had not been finalized, but would include both the Belhaven and Belhaven Heights areas, she said. 

LeFleur East has approximately 5,000 parcels in an area that runs from Old Canton Road and Hanging Moss Creek in the north to south of Lakeland Drive, and from the Pearl River to the I-55 North frontage road.

The territory takes in approximately 22 neighborhoods.

Jordan was unaware of whether any of those neighborhoods would seek a CID on their own.

HB 1612 was approved by lawmakers during the 2019 session. The law took effect July 1.

Projects eligible for funding include park construction and beautification, street resurfacing, hiring of private security, buying and rehabilitating dilapidated property, adding new plantings to public spaces and the like.

The tax would be in place long enough to implement the improvements and could not exceed six mills. For homes valued at $300,000, a six-mill increase would equate to $180 a year in new property taxes.

Jordan Hillman, deputy director of planning for Jackson, said no neighborhoods had submitted formal applications at press time.

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