Documents filed to stop SSMID

Resolution in the works?

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Downtown property owners objecting to the implementation of a Self-Supporting Municipal Improvement District filed documents Thursday with the city of Marshalltown they hope will stall the measure.

Jonathan Hull of Willard’s — a SSMID opponent who owns property downtown subject to a possible SSMID levy — showed the Times-Republican a list of approximately 103 property owners who put in writing their opposition to SSMID. Hull personally submitted the material to City Clerk Sheri Coughenhour Thursday.

In Hull’s opinion, that constitutes a sufficient number by Iowa law to halt city council action on SSMID, since it surpasses a required 40 percent threshold.

City Administrator Jessica Kinser said in an email to the T-R she could not comment on the list.

“I can’t comment on anything I haven’t seen or validated,” she said.

Resolution discussions

Regardless of Thursday’s actions, both SSMID opponents and supporters have been meeting recently in an effort to resolve disagreements surrounding the measure.

David Thompson, owner-operator of Thompson’s True Value, and Vice-Chairman of the Marshall County Board of Supervisors, told the T-R Thursday both sides have been meeting “behind the scenes.” Thompson’s business is in the SSSMID district, and he would be levied an assessment if the measure passes. He and Hull spoke out against SSMID at the Sept. 7 Planning & Zoning meeting.

“There are a number of us who have been working behind the scenes at different levels to come up with a resolution to get everyone on the same page,” Thompson said. “We all want the best for downtown … we are working to find common ground.”

McCormick also confirmed meetings between both sides have taken place.

“There is a lot of passion on both sides,” McCormick said. “We want to channel that passion and interest into improving downtown. We will continue meeting in hopes of coming to a successful resolution. We are discussing the different levy rates and other issues which concern the opposition. In the end, we hope to come up with a plan agreeable to all …. which would give the CBD additional financial resources.”

What is SSMID?

SSMID is a self-imposed levy upon commercial and industrial property taxable value within a district. If implemented by the city council, a downtown property owner would have the levy added on to all other business expenses.

The funds collected from the levy are restricted to improving the business and cultural environment of a specific district.

The Central Business District/Main Street program staff and volunteers have been working most of this year prompting SSMID benefits to property owners in the district.

They claim the estimated $60,000 to $80,000 generated from SSMID levies is needed to advance the mission of the CBD. Supporters also claim an annual allotment from the city, fundraising and other revenue is not enough to make needed downtown improvements which would benefit downtown businesses. Those range from marketing strategies to sidewalk snow removal to support of popular events such as the Holiday Stroll.

Earlier this year, supporters submitted their own list to the city which showed 63 downtown property owners in favor — five above the minimum required by state law.

Debate

Conversely, SSMID opponents have said the levy on their individual properties would be a financial burden. Some have suggested the CBD engage in more creative and efficient fundraising among other ideas, to improve revenue.

Debate, pro and con, has been spirited in the last three weeks. Supporters and opponents have turned out in force and have forcefully expressed their support, or opposition at the Aug. 28 city council meeting and a Sept. 7 Planning & Zoning meeting where SSMID was reviewed and recommended. The review was made at city council request.

At one point during the P&Z meeting, Nathan McCormick, a CBD volunteer and SSMID supporter and Thompson were debating SSMID merits while standing side-by-side at the lectern.

Both said at that meeting regardless of the final outcome, they would remain friends.

“I consider fellow property owners downtown my brothers and sisters,” Hull said. “This had been extremely difficult … but we all want the best for downtown.”

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com