LAKE GEORGE u A vocal opposition movement to a proposed business improvement district in the village shot down the plan, with a majority of voting-eligible property owners submitting objection ballots and killing the proposal.
“I’m happy to get back to running my business now, but we got it done,” said Adirondack Pub & Brewery owner John Carr, who opposed the tax associated with the proposed business improvement district. “Some will say the business owners on Canada Street don’t work together, but I think this proves we do. Even in the middle of ice storms, we work together.”
As of Tuesday morning,
51 percent of individual property owners within the proposed taxing district submitted objection ballots, just clearing the threshold needed to kill the proposal. Of the 146 property owners eligible to vote, 75 had submitted objection ballots as of Tuesday morning; Monday was the deadline.
Mayor Robert Blais called the outcome “disappointing.”
“Evidently, the merchants are content,” Blais said of the largely seasonal nature of the village’s businesses. “They spoke out and evidently they want it to stay that way.”
Business improvement districts generally raise money in part by taxing commercial property owners and use that money to improve and maintain the business district and to fund special events meant to draw more business to the area. Municipalities may also contribute funds to the district, which is governed by a board of directors.
In Lake George, officials hoped a business improvement district could lengthen the resort community’s business season. The proposal called for a tax rate of 54 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which was lowered from a previous version of the BID plan with a rate of 61 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
The plan forecasted a $150,000 budget for the BID’s first year, which included an executive director position.
“We’re not opposed to some type of business group that works together on projects,” Carr said. “We’re opposed to the tax.”
Carr said he hopes Lake George business owners can continue to rally to bring about changes that will collectively benefit them. He hopes the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce “redefines itself as a leader on Canada Street,” and the occupancy tax award process in Warren County is more closely scrutinized, because there’s “distrust” in the business community about how that money is being used, he said.
“Whether you were for or against the BID, we should talk to the county about how they’re doing this,” Carr said. “We’re hoping this will not die here.”
The proposal could have been shot down in two possible ways: At least 51 percent of individual property owners in the district could have turned in objection ballots; or owners whose property values collectively made up at least 51 percent of the district’s assessed value could have objected.
Individual property owners reached the 51 percent threshold to reject the business improvement district.
But those who submitted objection ballots represented less than 30 percent of the proposed district’s assessed value, Blais said.
The next step is for the Village Board at a meeting Monday to adopt a resolution turning down the business improvement district plan.
This was the fourth time in Blais’ more than 40-year tenure as mayor that he has pitched such a district, although this is the first time a proposal has come to a vote. In the past, the concept has died during the committee process.
It’s not something Blais would pitch again, he said Tuesday.
“I think this was an opportunity lost,” he said. “As expenses go up in next few years, I think merchants will no longer be able to sustain themselves on the business days we currently have.”
Even if the objection ballots hadn’t reached 51 percent, but had been
close, BID committee Chairman Rob Gregor, a Lake George motel owner, said he probably would have pulled his support for the plan because that much opposition would block its success, he said.
In one way, Blais sees the opposition vote as a credit to the village, which already does a number of things a business improvement district could fund, he said.
“I think in a way, it was a compliment to us,” Blais said. “They didn’t feel they needed to pay a tax for something the village already does.”
Gregor said, despite the outcome of the vote, there was consensus in the village about needing to find a way to improve Lake George economically, he said.
“Maybe we’re just back to that same place we were a year ago. We spent a year trying to see if this way would work and it wasn’t palatable to people,” Gregor said. “But maybe now we can find another way.”
Because voters shot the plan down, a meeting on the BID that had been scheduled for Thursday, has been canceled.