Downtown Missoula merchants, City Council support continued BID assessment

Unlike many cities of its size, Missoula’s downtown is thriving. It took considerable effort by, and on behalf of, merchants.

Now, as the downtown district sees an uptick in new development, most of those business owners want to continue the effort.

On Wednesday, the City Council’s Administration and Finance Committee gave initial approval to continuing annual fees for businesses in the Downtown Business Improvement District. The vote was unanimous after city clerk Marty Rehbein said 80 percent of the affected businesses had signed a petition to renew the fees.

“I am in support of this. They seemed to have come to this in a voluntary manner, and they think that it improves their business,” said Ward 4 Councilman Jesse Ramos.

The Downtown Business Improvement District was created in 2005 as a way to identify where maintenance and improvements were needed to enhance the downtown as a place to do business, shop and recreate. Fees are assessed to businesses on an annual basis based mainly on property value.

This year, fees on the 665 parcels within the Downtown BID will raise more than $315,000, an increase of about 3.9 percent over last year, Rehbein said. The increase is due to the fact that property values are rising. With the city undergoing about $850 million in development over the next few years, downtown property values are likely to continue to climb.

The fees support a wide variety of services every year, from trash collection and snow removal to marketing and economic development. The money is also helping to fund the $400,000 update to the Downtown Master Plan, which will guide the district’s growth and management for the next 25 years.

The City Council will consider final approval of the district fee on Monday night.