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Published: Wednesday, 1/8/2003

Downtown Partnership group will vote on association's future

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Members of the Downtown Sylvania Partnership are expected to vote Wednesday on whether the 5-year-old business organization should continue or be dissolved.

Some members, included by geography rather than inclination, began a campaign to dissolve the group after it extended its boundaries and increased fees last year.

Sylvania City Council approved the expansion in August after receiving a petition requesting it and signed by about 65 percent of the property owners.

Some have obviously had second thoughts, said Jim Sautter, owner of Sautter's 5-Star Market on Main Street. About 70 percent of the property owners signed a petition seeking the Wednesday meeting.

It will take a vote of more than 50 percent of the property owners, based on assessed value, to dissolve the partnership.

Assessments for this year were expected to bring in about $100,000. Under the new provisions, that amount was expected to increase to $118,00 by 2012.

The original Sylvania Improvement District was the business strip along Main Street. The expanded district includes Summit Street to Maplewood, and Maplewood to the police station.

Mr. Sautter said that one of the points members are particularly critical of is the inclusion in the new boundaries of rental property. The first public criticism came from landlords who said that even if the organization brought customers to retail outlets in the city's downtown, it did nothing for them.

That and the fact that, “nobody likes taxes,'' may have doomed the organization, Mr. Sautter said. He said fees that operate the partnership are not strictly taxes, but they feel like it when a business owner has to write the check.

Program director Candy Baker said the inclusion of rental property and the fact that the economy has been tight probably created the sentiment to end the program.

James Moan, city law director, said the issue will simply be whether to keep the partnership or end it. The law requires that it continue in operation long enough to settle the books, and if there is money left over, it is to be turned over to the city, he said.

Sylvania City Council has set a special meeting Jan. 13 to consider the challenge to the business partnership.

Mayor Craig Stough said he would seek a written report from an assessment equalization board, which he established to hear complaints from property owners in the district.

He also said that some property owners said they were told that services provided by the partnership would be continued by the city. That is not the case. The city won't become involved in planning special events, producing brochures highlighting the downtown or other work, which the partnership performs, he said.



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