Work con­tin­ues on 278 self-tax­a­tion dis­trict

The Covington News - - LOCAL - ROB DEWIG rdewig@cov­

The ef­fort to form a self-tax­ing “Com­mu­nity Im­prove­ment Dis­trict” on U.S. 278 in Cov­ing­ton is pick­ing up steam — and it has to, with a dead­line of Nov. 1 to take the next step.

At a Mon­day work ses­sion of the Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil, Serra Hall, di­rec­tor of com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment for the Cham­ber of Com­merce, gave coun­cil mem­bers an up­date on the new Hwy. 278 Im­prove­ment As­so­ci­a­tion. The group needs the coun­cil’s for­mal ap­proval be­fore send­ing the idea to the state Leg­is­la­ture, and the CID’s bound­aries need to be in the county tax as­ses­sor’s of­fice by Nov. 1.

The CID’s bound­aries stretch from In­ter­state 20’s Exit 90 along 278 to the site of the for­mer Wal-Mart, then up State High­way 142 to the Lochridge In­dus­trial Park. Most of the pro­posed dis­trict is com­mer­cial; some parts are res­i­den­tial, and a few non-profit or gov­ern­ment build­ings are in it as well. That in­cludes the hos­pi­tal.

The idea is to levy an ex­tra tax on busi­nesses in the dis­trict; a 3 per­cent to 5 per­cent in­crease has been men­tioned. But the CID is not a city project, not a city tax, Mayor Ron­nie John­ston said. Rather, business own­ers in the dis­trict have re­quested it to bet­ter fund the beau­ti­fi­ca­tion of the 278 cor­ri­dor.

Pro­posed im­prove­ments, Hall told the coun­cil, in­clude gate­way signs, land­scap­ing (com­plete with some new trees), lamp­posts and side­walks in the first phase, which ide­ally will be com­pleted in one or two years. Later phases, per­haps by year five, might in­clude bury­ing power lines that now line the cor­ri­dor, Hall said.

Fifty per­cent of busi­nesses, plus one, own­ing 75 per­cent or more of the as­sessed value along the cor­ri­dor must agree via no­ta­rized forms that they ap­prove of the CID for it to be­come re­al­ity, Hall said. That door-to-door ef­fort is un­der way. After that, the pro­posal will be given to the Leg­is­la­ture; the gov­er­nor must sign it, as well.

Hall said the CID’s new board of direc­tors has agreed that Exit 90 is “very im­por­tant” as a “gate­way” to their busi­nesses. Signs, land­scap­ing and more lights will be added there near the be­gin­ning of the project.

The City Coun­cil will con­sider a res­o­lu­tion sup­port­ing the CID at its next meet­ing. John­ston said peo­ple should un­der­stand that “this is not a city-im­posed or gov­ern­ment-im­posed tax.” The busi­nesses have asked for the ex­tra taxes to pay for more things to help their busi­nesses.

Hall said the idea has proven popular with many business own­ers, although not enough sig­na­tures have yet been col­lected. A New York busi­ness­man with a fran­chise on 278 told her he was in­ter­ested be­cause “he wants to see bet­ter pic­tures on Google Earth.”

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