St. Armands Circle Business Improvement District Chairman Marty Rappaport was so confident a 10-year extension of the St. Armands Business Improvement District was going to pass he had already lined up a meeting with the city of Sarasota’s parking division manager to discuss ways to alleviate the Circle’s parking woes.
It turns out Rappaport will have to cancel the meeting.
At the Monday, April 8 BID meeting at Sarasota City Hall, Rappaport announced the extension of the St. Armands Business Improvement District failed to receive adequate landowner approval to pass.
Only 34 of the 65 landowners returned their ballots by the April 2 deadline (one of which omitted a required witness’ signature). Landowners who return ballots must own more than 50% of the assessed property value within the district for the extension to be approved.
Rappaport called the results “a total surprise” during the BID meeting.
The problem, Rappaport said, was not disapproval of the BID. Instead, nearly half of the landowners didn’t get to vote: 28 of the ballots came back to the Sarasota City Auditor and Clerk’s Office stamped “not deliverable as addressed, unable to forward.”
“An error was made,” Rappaport said. “The ballots should have been sent certified.”
Stakeholders — landowners, merchants and residents — have commended the BID, a special taxing district that St. Armands Circle property owners voted to create in 2003, to help pay for Circle improvements. Among their achievements: new street lighting, repaired sidewalks, sitting areas with landscaping and up lighting and Bose speakers providing music.
“The Circle has enjoyed more capital improvements and promotion within the last 10 years than it has since the formation of St. Armands Circle by John Ringling in 1926,” Rappaport said. “We still have many more goals, which have had full support of all stakeholders.”
BID board member Gavin Meshad made a motion that the BID’s attorney, Sam Norton, approach Sarasota city attorney Robert Fournier with a request that ballots be sent again with return receipt requested, as well as an educational insert about the BID.
Though there has been no precedence of a re-vote, BID board members expressed optimism.
Rappaport plans to speak at the May 20 City Commission meeting about the negative consequences for St. Armands Circle should the BID expire. He requested St. Armands merchants and residents attend to show support.
Diane Corrigan, director of the St. Armands Circle Association, told Rappaport she and her merchants are “100% behind the BID.” If the revote is allowed, “I will call every single landlord urging them to vote,” she said. “This is that important.”
Jim Grace, vice president of the St. Armands Residents Association, echoed Corrigan’s support.
“We residents want to see this work out,” he said. “Our interests dovetail with yours and Circle improvements have ramifications on us.”