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Ongoing BID dispute dividing business community

To the editor:

I write to respectfully disagree with your editorial, “Stronger BID law has merit,” and to humbly offer a unifying way forward.

The BID was authorized by the City Council to form a group of property owners within the designated area that would elect to tax themselves to provide certain services. Owners who disapproved could opt out of the voluntary tax.

Currently, there is litigation pending between the city, proponents and opponents as to the legality of the BID’s formation. Sixty percent of the tax-paying members, including me, opted out. These so-called free riders pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes each year.

Now, the state Legislature has altered the statute to eliminate the opt-out provision so that the minority can, without notice and in secret, force the majority to participate and pay taxes contrary to what the City Council approved.

There will be another lawsuit initiated by the BID opponents on the basis that a governmental body cannot delegate its taxing authority to private parties to tax other private parties, which means more money and time invested on all sides.

The article states that the property owners can dissolve the BID by majority vote should they so choose, which is misleading. Non-taxable municipal properties and Smith College get to vote each of their parcels, making it virtually impossible for the taxpaying members to dissolve the BID.

Having friends on both sides, it is disheartening to see this ongoing dispute divide the business community. If the BID’s mission is deemed worthwhile, city government should add the cost to the total annual budget and set the business tax rates accordingly.

Then, all business property owners benefiting from a vibrant community would pay their “fair share” of the related costs — including the owners of the Gazette property.

John J. Herlihy


John J. Herlihy is managing general partner of Northampton Terminal Associates.

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