At Tuesday’s Law and Public Safety, the Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation outlined their plan to expand the territory they currently cover and proposed that doing so would be a positive change for both commercial businesses and residential properties located in those areas.
According to a representative of the Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation who spoke at the meeting, the organization offers numerous services that would be beneficial for those in the proposed expanded territory. Such services include a clean and safety program, beautification, economic development for merchants, and marketing and promotion for areas within their territory.
Numerous individuals spoke in opposition to the change, which would expand the boundaries of the territory to a few standalone properties and two larger collections of properties near Hillsborough Street. The two collections include the areas from Enterprise Street to Oberlin Road and the portion of Morgan Street near Irregardless Café to St. Mary’s Street.
Susan Warrick, who lives in a 12-unit townhouse complex on Morgan Street, told the committee that because the Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation is partially funded by taxes levied on the people within its territory, it would cost her $300-$400 more per year in property taxes if the organization succeeds in expanding its territory.
“Does this area have a need [for these services] that is demonstrably greater than other areas?” she asked.
Lyle Warrick echoed her statement, saying “We’re questioning the expanding of the existing Business Improvement District. Does a particular neighborhood show a particular need for this action?”
Their concern seemed centered around the probability of paying “special taxes” that would go to fund the Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation. Committee members also had their own objections, specifically that the proposed expansion would in effect tax owners of condominiums and townhomes but allow exemptions for single-family homes.
“I have concerns with exemptions for single-family homes and not for townhomes and condos,” committee chair Mary-Ann Baldwin said.
Committee member John Odom added that it was important for the Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation to be transparent regarding where its money is being spent and if these neighborhoods needed the additional services the money provided for. He noted, however, that he’s for business improvement districts.
“I think they work,” Odom said, “if they’re done right.”
The Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation needs “greater guidance on how the board evaluates how different properties are exempt,” said committee member Wayne Maiorano.
While the representatives from the Hillsborough Street Community Service Organization did not have a chance to respond to the opposition during the committee meeting, they noted in their presentation to the committee that while support for the expansion was “not universal,” it also was “not explosive.”
They added that “all properties within a municipal territory benefit [from the business improvement district]” and that as an organization they engage their constituents frequently through a monthly board meeting, a number of committees, email groups, and meeting with people.
Their budget for the fiscal year is $400,000, with next year’s likely to be $500,000.
The committee meeting resulted in staff being instructed to gain the financial documents that show where the funding for the Hillsborough Street Community Service Organization is going, to “see the dollars and what’s the use of it,” in the words of John Odom.
“This is still an open issue,” Mary-Ann Baldwin said, “and we will consider it at the next meeting.”