Belhaven working on signatures

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Belhaven leaders are about halfway there when it comes to garnering the signatures needed to form the Belhaven Community Improvement District, or CID.

Recently, the Greater Belhaven Foundation had collected approximately 500 signatures, or a little less than the 1,045 required as part of the initial petition required before a district can be considered.

“We’re a little less than halfway there, but we’re getting there,” said GBF Executive Director Casey Creasey.

CIDs are special districts allowed by state statute. Property owner within a CID’s boundaries pay a special assessment on top of their annual property taxes, which is then set aside to fund public improvements within the district.

The foundation has been the most aggressive in forming one of the districts, but other groups have also shown interest.

The LeFleur East Foundation hopes to launch efforts early next year, after speaking with neighborhoods, said Executive Director Stacey Jordan.

LeFleur East serves an area that stretches from Lakeland Drive to north of Hanging Moss Creek. That area includes 22 individual neighborhoods and 4,500 parcels.

Jordan said she plans to speak with leaders in the various LeFleur East neighborhoods to build support before the foundation begins collecting signatures.

She said the group could also look at forming a smaller CID, rather than one that encompasses all of the LeFleur East area.

“As people see it succeed, it could be expanded,” she explained. “This will be the main part of my job in 2020.”

For its part, Belhaven has hosted several informational meetings to garner support and answer residents’ questions.

The Belhaven CID would run from Riverside Drive in the north to High Street in the South. It would stretch from North State Street in the west to I-55 North in the east.

Primary questions from residents so far have been “what the funds will be used for, once we start collecting them,” Creasey said. “the biggest thing for the first year is security and master planning.

“People also want to know if we’re going to listen to their ideas. We’re writing down every idea (we get),” she said.

According to a draft of the first-year budget, the CID would generate approximately $206,729 a year. Of that, 55 percent would go toward public safety and security; 20 percent would go toward master planning; 10 percent would go to pay for capital improvements; the remaining 15 percent would cover management and auditing costs.

According to neighborhood documents, the $113,701 set aside for security would be used for increasing patrols in the area’s residential and commercial areas, traffic-calming, lighting and other security measures.

The master planning funds ($41,346) would go toward developing a CID master plan.

Another $20,673 would go toward investments in “parks, landscaping and public spaces to enhance property values and emphasize our neighborhood’s unique characteristics,” according to the draft budget.

Legislation allowing CIDs was signed into law this year. The law took effect on July 1, and only applies to communities in the capital city.

To be considered for a district, homeowner groups must draw up an area’s boundaries and collect signatures of support from 60 percent of home and business owners within it.

That petition, along with a master plan showing how CID monies would be used, then must be submitted to city officials for consideration.

From there, the city verifies the signatures and determines the millage needed to implement the projects in the strategic plan. Once a proposed millage rate is hammered out, the city would call for an election.

Under state statute, the city has 90 days to set an election once the strategic plan is formally submitted. State law also mandates that the city advertise the election in the local newspaper once a week for three weeks prior to the election date.

All “qualified electors” within the proposed district boundaries would be able to vote, meaning that all individuals living in the district, whether they own property or not, would be allowed to cast ballots.

Ballots will be prepared by municipality and include the proposed additional millage for the district and a brief statement on the purpose of the district. Voters would choose between two options: “for the special improvement assessment district,” or “against the special improvement assessment district,” legislation states.

For the CID to pass, 60 percent of voters would have to cast ballots in favor of the measure.

Once passed, the county would begin collecting the tax the following year. And the tax would be in place as long, and only as long, as it is needed to complete the work laid out in the strategic plan.

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