The effort to form a self-taxing “Community Improvement District” on U.S. 278 in Covington is picking up steam — and it has to, with a deadline of Nov. 1 to take the next step.
At a Monday work session of the Covington City Council, Serra Hall, director of commercial development for the Chamber of Commerce, gave council members an update on the new Hwy. 278 Improvement Association. The group needs the council’s formal approval before sending the idea to the state Legislature, and the CID’s boundaries need to be in the county tax assessor’s office by Nov. 1.
The CID’s boundaries stretch from Interstate 20’s Exit 90 along 278 to the site of the former Wal-Mart, then up State Highway 142 to the Lochridge Industrial Park. Most of the proposed district is commercial; some parts are residential, and a few non-profit or government buildings are in it as well. That includes the hospital.
The idea is to levy an extra tax on businesses in the district; a 3 percent to 5 percent increase has been mentioned. But the CID is not a city project, not a city tax, Mayor Ronnie Johnston said. Rather, business owners in the district have requested it to better fund the beautification of the 278 corridor.
Proposed improvements, Hall told the council, include gateway signs, landscaping (complete with some new trees), lampposts and sidewalks in the first phase, which ideally will be completed in one or two years. Later phases, perhaps by year five, might include burying power lines that now line the corridor, Hall said.
Fifty percent of businesses, plus one, owning 75 percent or more of the assessed value along the corridor must agree via notarized forms that they approve of the CID for it to become reality, Hall said. That door-to-door effort is under way. After that, the proposal will be given to the Legislature; the governor must sign it, as well.
Hall said the CID’s new board of directors has agreed that Exit 90 is “very important” as a “gateway” to their businesses. Signs, landscaping and more lights will be added there near the beginning of the project.
The City Council will consider a resolution supporting the CID at its next meeting. Johnston said people should understand that “this is not a city-imposed or government-imposed tax.” The businesses have asked for the extra taxes to pay for more things to help their businesses.
Hall said the idea has proven popular with many business owners, although not enough signatures have yet been collected. A New York businessman with a franchise on 278 told her he was interested because “he wants to see better pictures on Google Earth.”