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Colfax PC discusses Business Improvement District

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — Although Business Improvement Districts are typically found in larger cities, Wisconsin has nearly one hundred small communities with a BID.

Would a Business Improvement District be right for Colfax?

The Colfax Plan Commission discussed a Business Improvement District with Patrick Beilfuss of Cedar Corporation at the plan commission’s March 4 meeting.

The Colfax Plan Commission started working last year to update the village’s Smart Growth Comprehensive Land Use plan, and the chapter for March 4 was economic development.

Forming a BID requires a business plan to outline what will be done with money collected from businesses in the district, Beilfuss said.

BIDs work quite well for older downtown areas, he noted.

Money can be collected from the businesses in the district either through an assessment or through a set annual fee, Beilfuss said, adding that businesses in the district decide how much money will be collected from each one.

The business plan can include projects such as storefront upgrades or beautification projects that are paid for with funds collected from businesses in the district.

“It is a self-funded way to make improvements,” Beilfuss said.

A Business Improvement District sounds remarkably similar to the goals and aspirations of the Colfax Commercial Club.

Could a BID be administered through the Colfax Commercial Club? asked Scott Gunnufson, village president and chair of the plan commission.

Beilfuss said he thought the business district probably could be administered through the Commercial Club.

The first step would be to talk to business owners to see if they would be interested in forming a Business Improvement District, Beilfuss said, noting that either he or one of several other people at Cedar Corporation could attend a Colfax Commercial Club meeting to talk about a Business Improvement District.

Beilfuss also provided plan commission members with an information sheet from UW-Extension about creating a BID.

According to the fact sheet, the BID planning committee must draft an initial operating plan that identifies goals and objectives and the relationship to any municipal comprehensive plans.

The initial operating plan also must identify district boundaries and whether manufacturing businesses will be included.

The BID planning committee would then petition the Colfax Plan Commission for permission to create the district.

The plan commission would then schedule a public hearing on the Business Improvement District, which requires a Class 2 notice to be published in the newspaper.

The plan commission also would mail certified letters to all affected property owners, including a map identifying the boundaries of the proposed district and a copy of the initial operating plan or where a copy of the plan can be acquired.

After the public hearing, the Colfax Plan Commission would designate the proposed BID and adopt the initial operating plan.

During a required 30-day waiting period, the proposed Business Improvement District could be rejected if a petition is signed by owners of properties representing more than 40 percent of the value of property to be assessed in the proposed district.

On the recommendation of the plan commission, the Colfax Village Board would then adopt the operating plan and establish or reject the Business Improvement District.

If the BID were approved, the village president would then appoint a minimum of five people to serve as BID board members, with the majority being district property owners.

The BID planning committee also could recommend other members for the BID board.