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Business Improvement District discussion to resurface at Alexandria City Council meeting

Five years after the City Council struck down a plan to get a Business Improvement District (BID) up and running in Old Town, a discussion of BID frameworks is coming back to the city.

While the city earlier rejected the idea of a BID in Old Town, BID advocates managed to get the concept approved as part of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funding.

Approval of guidelines for the creation and management of a BID is scheduled for the upcoming Tuesday, June 28 City Council meeting (item 16).

“Earlier this year, City Council adopted their calendar year 2022 priorities, which included COVID-19 pandemic recovery: Identifying policies, practices and resources needed to ensure a resilient and equitable recovery for all residents and businesses,” staff wrote in the city docket. “Aligned with that priority, staff has created guidelines for City Council’s adoption that outlines how interested business communities, or proponent groups, can propose the formation of a Business Improvement District (BID).”

Back in 2017, some local business leaders and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) spearheaded an effort to get a BID approved for Old Town, but they struggled to gain traction with business owners along King Street who balked at the idea of an additional tax for already struggling businesses.

The upcoming City Council meeting won’t be to approve the creation of any such BID, but will entail looking again at the guidelines for how a businesses in a commercial area can petition to create one.

“Groups of businesses in the City have expressed interest in exploring this tool as part of recovery efforts, and in recent years, the City has encouraged or required the formation of BIDs in new development areas,” the docket said. “The guidelines provide the framework and instructions for these groups to request BID formation — with the ultimate decision on formation determined by City Council on an application-by-application basis.”

The guidelines include a ten-step process, from informing the City that a BID is being considered through to tax ordinances and BID operations.

The item is scheduled just before “2022 City Council Priorities, Housing and COVID-19 Recovery Business Plans” on the docket, which at time of writing consist of blank placeholder pages.

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