LAKE GEORGE -- Creating a business improvement district in the village is gaining support among business owners after two failed attempts to create such a village district in the past decade.
Mayor Robert Blais estimated about 60 business owners attended a meeting Tuesday morning, and the vast majority were in favor of working toward a business improvement district.
“I was surprised,” Blais said about the turnout after the meeting. “It was a full house and people were very enthusiastic about working together.”
Blais has proposed a village business improvement district twice before: in 2005 and 2007, but the district was never ultimately created because of a lack of interest at those times.
At Tuesday’s meeting, some of the business owners were meeting each other for the first time, Blais said.
Many business owners in Lake George operate during the summer months but live elsewhere for the remainder of the year, which has been a problem in the past in generating interest in a business improvement district.
Glens Falls and Saratoga Springs both have such districts. Business improvement districts generally encompass a defined commercial area within the community, and businesses that are included in the district pay a tax or fee that goes toward funding improvements within the district, providing a private funding source for things that may have otherwise been funded in part with taxpayer money.
The village puts on various special events and fireworks displays during the summer, and spends thousands of dollars annually on special events, and funding from the district could go toward the cost of special events and could provide the village with the opportunity to do even more, Blais said.
The details haven’t yet been worked out about whether all of the village would be encompassed in a potential business improvement district, or how much the fee would be. But Blais said about a dozen people have volunteered to serve on a steering committee to help create the district and present it to the Village Board. The mayor would like to see a plan in place by the end of this year, in time to start planning events for the 2014 summer season, he said.
The proposed district is one of a group of different initiatives village officials are currently considering to stimulate development, and to encourage more businesses to stay open year-round rather than closing seasonally. Officials are also considering allowing taller buildings in the village, are exploring creating a local development corporation and are looking at revamping an existing business investment credit program.
A second meeting on the creation of a business improvement district will be held March 19.
Jim Quirk, who owns Shoreline Cruises, is in favor of the district, and said he could see it functioning similarly to a group of lakefront businesses that joined with the village in the late 1990s to create the lakefront walkway in the village.
“That was good for our properties and our businesses,” Quirk said. “Those ideas can only be brought forward by a group of people like this — it seems like a good idea.”
Rob Gregor, who owns the Motel Montreal on Lake Avenue, isn’t against the idea of a business improvement district but cautioned that it could be difficult to implement.
Gregor is researching business improvement districts and is trying to find a comparable community to Lake George that has a business improvement district, and would like to see the concept in the village be modeled after another community that’s had success with the endeavor.
“The devil is in the details with this. It’s a great conceptual idea, but be prepared, it’s going to be tough to implement,” Gregor said. “But there are a lot of positives. At the end of the day, local governments are faced with the problem that there’s not enough money to go around, and a BID puts some of the burden on the private sector that would normally be shouldered by the public sector.”