City projects moving forward

Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — A downtown group will take its time looking at possibly creating a business improvement district in the city.

The Watertown Downtown Business Association doesn’t want to make the same mistakes when similar efforts failed in 1993, DBA treasurer Carol A. Loch said.

“We want to make sure we’re going in the right direction before we go too far,” she said.

Brian Ashley, a member of the group looking at the issue, brought up the subject at a meeting of the members of Advantage Watertown, a group of business and community leaders who meet monthly to talk about city issues.

Last fall, City Manager Rick Finn proposed forming a business improvement district to make further strides in downtown growth.

Business improvement districts have been around since the 1980s. Several other communities have adopted them, including Batavia, Geneva, Canandaigua and Ithaca.

In recent months, a DBA subcommittee has been meeting twice a month to explore whether a business district should be formed in Watertown.

Two subcommittee members will go to Geneva next month for a meeting of BID executive directors in the state to find out more about them, Ms. Loch said.

The Watertown Downtown Business Association would have to first get a consensus of the majority of businesses to agree to pursue the BID, the City Council needs to approve and the state Legislature would have to okay it.

Several questions still need to be answered, including district boundaries, their benefits and how it would affect the association’s operations.

Ms. Loch doesn’t know when the downtown business group will make a decision.

A BID was proposed for downtown in 1993, but several business owners fought against the proposal, including Bart S. Bonner, who filed a state Supreme Court lawsuit to block the district from forming. A judge ruled against Mr. Bonner, but merchants voted against the district.

Mr. Finn reiterated that the city is not pushing the idea but will support the DBA’s decision.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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