West Reading Avenues Summer 2017 - 8
IN THE COMMUNITY
By Phil Wert
ecently, the West Reading Community Revitalization Foundation began laying groundwork for establishing a Business
Improvement District (BID) along Penn Avenue within the
borough. Hopes are that this substantial economic development
tool will help maintain and stabilize existing successes, in addition
to adding significant benefit for property and business owners
both in the short and long terms.
For some background, a BID is a legal mechanism
communities can choose to opt into as defined by
the Neighborhood Improvement District Act that
was amended in 2000 by the state legislature.
Such districts exist already and are scattered throughout the state in
places like Philadelphia, West Chester, Phoenixville, and Lancaster,
as well as the City of Reading. BIDs run for the pre-determined
amount of time, usually within a range of 5-10 years. The current
West Reading BID discussions have proposed a five-year timeframe.
On its face, a BID provides specific services to properties located
solely within the district's geographic boundaries. All BID services
must be above and beyond any existing services already provided
by the municipality.
Examples of services are numerous and varied, but may include
things like sidewalk cleaning, snow shoveling, increased security,
Avenues Summer 2017
staff funding, marketing programs/materials, and funds for infrastructure repairs specific to the district. Additional service options
exist and communities are encouraged to tailor their programs to
their specific needs and desires. Importantly, services can ONLY
benefit those properties contained within the BID's boundaries,
meaning the money must be spent where it's collected.
Establishing a BID is no easy task and it requires the coordination
and commitment by a number of bodies in order for everything to
work out as expected. The BID process can take a year or more
and requires a number of draft plans, meetings, and hearings in
order for the BID to exist legally. Along the way, property owners
are an integral part of deciding what form the BID will take and
what services the BID will provide.
From a funding standpoint, a BID derives its funding from an
assessment placed on properties located within its boundaries.
There are a number of ways to assess properties, such as square
footage, frontage considerations, property assessment percentages,
etc. The important thing to remember is that property owners
have a say into what tool/tools are used to assess and how much
that assessment will likely cost annually.
When a BID draft plan is complete, it must go through two official
steps in order to fully realize its implementation. First, the BID
must face the property owners themselves. If 40% of property
owners vote down the BID, the process stops immediately and it
dies right there. If this hurdle is overcome, it then goes before