UPDATE: Meeting on tax for extra downtown services brings many opinions

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After years of talk, downtown Wilmington could soon have a new way to enhance the area.

Some business leaders want to create what’s called a municipal service district downtown.

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Wilmington could follow 56 other cities in the state and create a MSD. That could mean more beautification, maintenance, private security, or even just marketing for the area, but it could also mean higher taxes.

When small business owner Chad Bean chose downtown for his hair salon, he never looked back.

“I fell in love with the town, and there was no way I was ever leaving,” he said.

Since he got here almost 15 years ago, so have several others.

“I’ve seen a lot of empty storefronts now have businesses in it; small businesses like myself,” Bean said.

To keep that momentum going, Wilmington Downtown Inc. says business leaders want to create a municipal service district. The task force could increase property taxes to pay for extra services like maintenance, security or even marketing.

WDI’s Ed Wolverton says of the 1,200 MSDs across the country, most focus on safe and clean programs.

“Typically, it’s an ambassador or someone that’s out on the street, and they can interact with panhandlers, for instance,” Wolverton said. “If say a car window is rolled down or someone left a laptop under a car seat, they can see those types of things and work with people to make sure that their security is a little bit better that it may be.”

But, Bean says late-night, which is long after his shop is closed, is when more policing is needed most.

The MSD task force has not determined how that money would be spent or if it even will be spent.

Bean says if he’s going to see a tax increase, he wants to see the benefit.

“I’d like to see it continue to improve. If a tax increase could help that, I guess that’s a good thing, but again I don’t see how it benefits me.”

At a public meeting Thursday night, the second to be held on the MSD, downtown business owners and residents asked questions and came up with their own ideas. While some said they’re against paying for the service, others said it’s a small sacrifice that will bring huge benefits.

“Those are the sort of things like in other cities like Raleigh, they would have an ambassador maybe on the street, where you don’t necessarily need a police officer to walk someone to their car. But, having a friendly face take someone to their car, even if it’s only a couple of blocks to the public parking deck, could be a very nice service,” said Andrew Gray with Tayloe, Gray, Kristoff.

Wolverton said they don’t know how much it will cost yet, but the funding would most likely come from property taxes from only within the district. He added that the state would not be able to take that money, it would always stay with the MSD.