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Downtown stakeholders want tax plan to slow down

READ MORE: Downtown stakeholders want tax plan to slow down
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Business and property owners are trying to get out the message that "it's just plain wrong" to implement a proposed Municipal Services District in downtown Wilmington.

Wilmington Downtown Inc. is trying to push the creation of a MSD to enhance city services, like safety patrols, clean-up crews and marketing and event support. Problem is, many of the people who will be impacted by the MSD are against the plan.

Hundreds of businesses, property owners and residents have signed a petition against the MSD proposal.

"We are getting great feedback in our meetings," Wilmington Downtown Inc. Executive Director John Hinnant said. "Right now, we are focusing on providing them information and taking feedback."

But feedback seems to be the issue, according to many downtown stakeholders. Business owner and Downtown Business Alliance member Joan Loch said the proposal is being forced through too quickly.

"The group that has signed the petition is not against the MSD or the tax, it is against the way it is proposed at this time," Loch said. "There's a lot of different little flaws in it that do not give proper representation to the various people that are going to be affected by this tax."

Petitioners think "it's just plain wrong" that the proposal was conceived without any input from the folks WDI wants to tax.

The full petition and its hundreds of signatures will appear in the local paper Sunday to make an impression before the MSD proposal is presented to City Council Tuesday evening.

Here's the petition:

WDI’s Municipal Services District Plan: IT’S JUST PLAIN WRONG!

All the undersigned, are Property Owners, Business Owners or Residents in the Central Business District (CBD) of Wilmington, North Carolina. We believe that the Municipal Services District proposal put forth by Wilmington Downtown Incorporated (WDI) has serious problems and we emphatically state that it does NOT have our support.

We have differing reasons for not supporting the proposal:

(1) Some of us do not believe that Central Business District property owners should be singled out for this additional tax since the downtown area is an amenity that all the residents of Wilmington and the region enjoy for free, making it reasonable to expect that all taxpayers, and not just CBD taxpayers, should pay to address the problems the crowds cause. IT’S JUST PLAIN WRONG!

(2) Due to the density of the Central Business District, we already pay a disproportionate share of property taxes per acre - almost 5 times more than the rest of the city. IT’S JUST PLAIN WRONG!

(3) Among those of us who would support an additional tax for a well planned Municipal Services District, we do not believe that WDI is the right entity to control and administer the funds. Their proposal is both unfair and flawed since it was formulated with no input from the taxpayers WDI wants to tax, and the funds would be spent by WDI with only a hand-picked “Advisory Committee” to make “Suggestions” as to how the funds would be spent. IT’S JUST PLAIN WRONG!

(4) WDI has been receiving funding from the City of Wilmington and from New Hanover County for many years and currently receives $81,000 per year. In recent years taxpayers have received little, if any, return on their tax dollars that have gone to WDI. Currently, WDI’s greatest claims to fame are getting a small local company to agree to relocate Downtown and their Downtown Concert Series, an event they use as a fundraiser by selling large volumes of beer and wine. While downtown has an acknowledged problem with the late night bar crowd, WDI’s Concert Series has only served to bring people downtown earlier and get them started imbibing sooner. We certainly can’t endorse entrusting this organization with hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars. IT’S JUST PLAIN WRONG!

(5) If our City Council is serious about investigating the possibility of a Municipal Services District, we respectfully request that they appoint a task force composed of stakeholders and allocate a modest amount of funding to contract with a consulting firm to assist with surveying all stakeholders so we end up with a proposal that a majority of stakeholders support. We also request that if Council decides at some later date to implement a well thought out Municipal Services District Plan that council direct that the Municipal Services District funds be controlled by a commission composed solely of stakeholders. THIS IS JUST PLAIN RIGHT!

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