Although St. Armands Circle property owners say they are in favor of the Business Improvement District, they overwhelmingly voted against its renewal.
Ballots were counted Sept. 2, and only 20% of property owners voted for renewal. A simple majority was required for approval. The BID is a special taxing district, which pays for improvements on the Circle. It expires in 2013.
After ballots asking property owners to decide whether to renew the district for another 10 years were mailed, two business owners, Jack Peffley, of Taffy’s Menswear, and Scott MacDonald, of Crab and Fin, asked the city if merchants could also serve on the BID board.
Peffley said the BID has done good things for the Circle, but having merchants on the board will give them a stronger voice.
“I’m not unhappy with anything,” he said. “The BID has given us new crosswalks, landscaping, lighting in trees.”
State law dictates that people responsible for paying taxes can serve on the board. Peffley and MacDonald contended that because their rent checks pay the property taxes, the board should include merchants.
But property owners say they are ultimately responsible for the taxes, because, if they go unpaid, the government will go after them, not their tenants.
Assistant City Attorney Mike Connolly said that the law could be interpreted either way, so he asked the City Commission to make a policy decision.
A City Commission vote Aug. 17 affirmed that property owners are the only people eligible to serve on the BID board.
BID Chairman Marty Rappaport said because commissioners did not change the city ordinance, property owners fear the commission could one day change that policy and allow merchants to serve on the BID board.
Rappaport said St. Armands merchants already have an association, and the BID is the only one that gives a voice to the property owners.
Rappaport has asked the Florida Attorney General’s Office to better define the law. When that happens, he said he will reapply for an extension to the BID. He has up to three years to do so.