Merchants in Adams Square will soon be forced to pool their financial
resources, but the final sum will not be as large as expected.
The City Council is expected to create a business improvement
district in Adams Square with a $120 annual fee, satisfying area
merchants who protested a proposed $300 fee. Once the business
district is created, the city will collect the money -- $6,000 in
all, instead of $15,000 -- and turn it over to a merchants
association to use for advertising and special events.
Because the city will continue to give the area $15,000 per year, the business district's budget will be about $21,000.
"For a lot of small businesses, $300 is a big hit," said Bob
Gallegos, owner of Doctor Bob's Auto Repair. "The first step in any
organization, you need to start off a little smaller."
The district will force every business in the area, which lines
Chevy Chase Drive, Palmer Avenue and Adams Street, to join a
merchants association. The assessment fees are collected by the city
and then turned over to the merchants association.
Membership in the merchants association is not mandatory, and only
12 of the 50 businesses pay the $100 membership fee.
Gallegos organized the protest, getting 27 Adams Square businesses
to join him. He proposed a $100 fee at Tuesday's City Council
meeting. Mayor Bob Yousefian negotiated the fee up to $120 per year,
or $10 per month. Gallegos will try to sell the new rate to Adams
Square businesses before next week's City Council meeting, and he
expects most of the protesting merchants to withdraw the objection.
The council is not allowed to create a business improvement
district if more than half of the businesses object.
City Atty. Scott Howard said two of the protests were disqualified
on a technicality, so at least one more business must withdraw its
objection for the council to proceed.
Despite the lower assessment fee, the council pledged to continue
giving the merchants $15,000 each year, an about-face from an earlier
promise to match the assessment revenue up to $15,000. Yousefian said
the council made the pledge to ensure that the business improvement
district would be created.
Members of the Adams Square Merchants Assn., who set the $300 fee,
believe the council used them as scapegoats, making them appear
greedy for setting the high assessment. They settled on the $300 fee
to maximize the matching funds.
"Had we known that the council was going to flip-flop the way they
did, we would have come in with the $50 to $100 fee, knowing they
were still going to give us $15,000," board member Carol Cianfrini
said. "We feel like we were stabbed in the back."
Yousefian said creating the district is the top priority.
"It was obvious if we didn't do what we did, the [district]
wouldn't have happened," Yousefian said. "They're going to find out
that $20,000 doesn't go far. I have a feeling next year they'll
probably vote to increase the money by themselves."
The Montrose Shopping Park Assn. is the city's only other business
improvement district. Brand Boulevard merchants are considering