City denies downtown business district expansion, asks district to rework proposal

City Commissioners voted during their April 4 meeting not to expand the boundaries of the downtown Business Improvement District.

The district was created in May 1989, recreated in 1999, 2009 and 2019.

The creation and expansion of business improvement districts are governed by state law, which specifies that a district shall not be for a period of more than 10 years unless extended under the provisions for the creation of the district.

Property owners making up 65.65 percent of those within the proposed expansion signed a petition asking to be included in the district.

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State law requires the governing body to consider the expansion when more than 60 percent of the owners in the proposed boundary ask to be included in the district.

During the 15-day protest period, two protest letters were submitted to the city regarding the expansion.

One of the properties included in the proposed expansion was the Great Falls Masonic Temple at 821 Central Ave.

The owners of the temple, a nonprofit, said they did not want to be included in the district since they aren’t a business.

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They argues they aren’t part of economic growth in downtown and wouldn’t benefit from being included in the district.

The district provides trash collection, snow removal, beautification and more within the downtown district.

The Masons said they appreciate the work of the BID, but if they were included would be assessed about $4,300.

The assessments in the BID are based on property sizes and other nonprofits are included in the district.

Masons said they have no way to make money to pay the assessment since they don’t have a banquet hall, bar or bowling alley to generate revenue.

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They asked that they be exempt from the district.

Commissioner Rick Tryon moved to deny the proposed expansion and wanted to know if they could carve out the Masons property.

Staff said they didn’t think commissioners could carve out that property during the meeting and would have to start the process over with a modified boundary proposal.

Tryon said he supports the downtown business improvement district and “I believe in what you do,” but that they needed to consider the Masons request for exemption.

City Manager Greg Doyon said it would be better for staff to work with the BID to modify the proposal rather than have a messy discussion during the meeting.

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City staff had recommended the expansion and commissioners created, and renewed, the district to promote “the health, safety, prosperity, security and general welfare of the inhabitants of the city…and has determined the district provides special benefits to those properties located within its boundaries,” according to the agenda report.

According to the district, the total tax valuation of all of the properties located within the BID boundaries
was $65,433,684 in 2009 and was $110,547,999 in 2018.

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The district is operated by a volunteer board, one full-time and one part-time employee.

The funds raised by the assessment go back into the district, which has also included grant programs over the years.

The expansion was estimated to generate an additional $16,900 for the district.