Carson St. changes, BID dialogue on tap
November 2, 2014
A decision on approving downtown Carson City's public sector design for Carson Street and related work with private property owners is expected Thursday.
The Board of Supervisors will tackle that twin task in one agenda item at 2 p.m., after its lunch break, as it meets in regular session at the Sierra Room in the Community Center, 851 E. William St. The meeting, as usual, starts there at 8:30 a.m., with almost all other agenda items before the lunch break.
A presentation on preliminary work with downtown property owners on forming their own maintenance and promotional district is expected during the afternoon project deliberations, which some board members insist on before giving the public part of any downtown upgrades their final blessing.
Overtures to owners currently are being handled primarily by Linda Ritter, former city manager in Carson City, though Community Development Director Lee Plemel and other city staff provide information as well. The Thursday agenda item expands that city staff role by board directive, along with calling for conceptual design approval.
The directive instructs staff to work with downtown property owners to establish a Commercial Area Vitalization District, as it's formally named in state law. Such units often are informally referred to as local private/public business improvement districts and shortened to the acronym BID. Ritter plans to be on hand for that part of the afternoon, along with property owners.
"I'm going to have property owners up, not me," she said, as she explained her progress late last week as a volunteer coordinator to assess owners' attitudes toward forming a BID. In mid-October, she reported she had 58 percent of the necessary support for exploring a BID, basing that on assessed valuation and not ownership numbers, but now says interest has grown.
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Ritter explained state law requires such districts be formed on the basis of majority support by assessed value or by local government mandate, under certain conditions, but she believes building support for owners to do it themselves is the best method. She divulged progress through late last week on two fronts, both by parcel ownership and by assessed valuation, but concentrated on the latter as the real trigger.
"That's the (state) law," she said of the assessed value standard. "That's what I have to do."
Ritter had contacted property owners representing 86 percent of the assessed value in the potential downtown district, but still was seeking out the other 14 percent. Of the 86 percent, she said by her count 94 percent favor the street's conceptual design and 91 percent favored exploring formation of a district. She said she left out the 14 percent because they might prove either pro or con.
Ritter, city manager until about seven years ago, said there are 75 property parcels in the prospective downtown BID area, and owners representing 51 of them favor exploring formation of a district. She said 48 are for the conceptual street design. But she also knows there are those who think differently.
"There are some that are definitely opposed," Ritter said, "They may show up."
Ritter, now a consultant, said she isn't being paid. She was city manager when a general plan about altering downtown first was vetted and decided upon as the Carson freeway bypass was being built. A recession intervened, delaying it, but the freeway now reaches Fairview Lane and already has bypassed downtown. Despite that, a community contingent still objects to cutting the number of lanes on Carson Street and the expense of streetscape upgrades downtown.
The goal of the $8.9 million downtown project, which also upgrades underground utility infrastructure there, is a complete streets area with lively street activity via wider sidewalks and more amenities.
It's part of an overall set of capital improvement projects to spruce up streetscape in all business corridors, plus build a recreation center, an animal shelter and enhance community center cultural prospects.