A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Covington Business Council proposes Improvement District; RFPs to be issued for new fire station

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

A year ago, residents in the northern part of Covington took a survey.

The results showed that they wanted more marketing for the area…and more branding…and more way-finding and small business support. 

Once the Covington Business Council saw the outcome, it became clear — to them — that they needed to create a Business Improvement District for the area, or a defined area where some owners are required to pay an additional tax in order to fund projects within the district’s boundaries.

Tony Milburn, owner of 10 commercial properties in the proposed BID district (which encompasses portions of the Downtown, Roebling Point and hotel districts) and chairman of the Covington Business Council Foundation, said the group launched last week, and began circulating, a petition to get signatures for the BID.

“I’m putting my money where my mouth is,” he told the Commission at their regularly scheduled caucus meeting Tuesday night.

For creation of the BID, state law requires signatures from 51 percent of the property owners within the district area, though Milburn says they want to get 60 percent, which they will turn in to the Commission this summer.

Milburn said that as a business owner, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to compete with areas like Over-the-Rhine, where residents are currently working on their own BID. Regional cities like Lexington, Louisville and Cincinnati already have them.

How does the BID work? Owners of commercial real estate within the district — not owners of single-family homes or multi-family residential properties with less than four units — will pay a special assessment on their annual city tax bill to fund the business improvement district. About 400 properties are located within the proposed district. 

“The assessment rate for the proposed Covington BID will be 0.1 percent (or 10 cents) per $100 of assessed valuation,” the BID proposal reads. “In other words, a commercial property owner in the BID whose property has an assessed value of $100,000 would pay a $100 special assessment each year to the BID. The median assessment for a commercial property within the district will be approximately $171 a year. The assessment on commercial properties will be capped at $15,000 per property per year.”

The assessments are expected to initially generate about $305,000 in annual BID funding, Milburn said. They expect grants, sponsorships, and contributions from downtown supporters to provide another $110,000 each year for a total annual budget of about $415,000.

And what does the money go to? Appointed board members will use the funding to hire outside vendors to provide things such as:

*Marketing and promotional programs, including promotional themes and events

*Capital improvements, such as planters, lighting, wayfinding signage, etc.

*Enhanced security beyond what is normally provided by the city police department

*Management, maintenance, and beautification of the designated area

BID districts can be renewed every five years, with the same 51 percent signature petition, and with more than 1,500 in the United States, about 90 percent are renewed, Milburn said. 

A similar movement was proposed about five years ago in Covington, to no avail. Commissioners again voiced a few concerns Tuesday night.

Commissioner Michelle Williams and Mayor Joseph U. Meyer both expressed concern over the amount of money raised, compared with the amount of money that may be needed to fund staff. For instance, they asked, what if people don’t pay their new tax? That would require someone to collect it.

And what, the Mayor asked, if the PVA mis-classified a property as commercial, and asked the owners to pay the new tax? It would require an appeal process.

No action was required on the presentation Tuesday night. The Business Council just wanted to provide a progress report on their plans.

“I think this is exciting for the city, and the excitement shouldn’t stop,” said Commissioner Denny Bowman.

RFPs for West Covington Fire Station 

Commissioners heard a proposal to authorize a Request for Proposals for a Covington Fire Station Site and Facilities Study.

The city received a grant through the State Department of Local Government for $300,000, which will be used for the West Covington Fire Station property acquisition including, but not limited to:

purchase of the property for the construction of a new fire station 

a study to determine potential sites

GIS mapping of the district to be served

any additional site work necessary prior to purchase of the property, 

surveying, legal research and preparatory documentation

consulting from an architect

Responses must be submitted by: 10 a.m., April 25, 2019.

Parts of Audubon Road Vacated

Commissioners heard a proposed ordinance to vacate a portion of Audubon Road that is no longer a right of way due to construction of Devou Golf & Event Center.

“When the city constructed the Devou Golf & Event Center, a portion of Audubon Road was closed,” city documents say. “The event center was partially built on top of this previously designated right of way.” Planning and Development Services has requested that the city officially vacate the portion of Audubon Road. The city is the only landowner abutting the road and “all relevant access points for nearby property owners will be unaffected.”

The proposal will undergo a first reading Tuesday.

Moody’s Upgrades City Rating

City Manager David Johnston thanked City staff Tuesday after last week’s announcement that Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the city’s credit rating, and also gave Covington a “positive outlook” going forward.

Moody’s applauded the city’s “stronger financial management, conservative budgeting, and strategic moves to better manage operations,” and upgraded Covington to A2 from A3. “This is a team effort,” Johnston said.

Beyond the Curb

Jill Morenz, Director of Community Initiatives and Communications for The Catalytic Development Funding Corp. of Northern Kentucky, told the Commission that the Beyond the Curb Living Tour 2019 will focus on Covington’s MainStrasse Village.

The tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., April 28. 

Find more information here.

Also Tuesday … 

Following the immediate conclusion of the Commission meeting, a public hearing was held regarding an amendment to a TIF ordinance. No one showed up to speak.

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., April 9, at the Covington City Hall at 20 West Pike St.

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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