After nearly four hours of public testimony Tuesday morning, City Council’s Committee on Rules made 17 amendments to a bill introduced by Council President Darrell Clarke creating a Neighborhood Improvement District in the area west of Temple University.
The amendments reflect concerns of some community members that had surfaced during public meetings over the last several weeks, including one at Temple last week.
Some residents of the neighborhood felt they were being left out of the process of creating the NID, and that their views would not be considered by the NID leadership once the District was created.
Specifically, the amendments clarify a number of areas in the bill that caused confusion among community residents.
For example, the bill previously said that the percentage of extra taxes imposed by the NID on non-owner-occupied properties in the area would “not exceed ten percent …” Council added language stating that the same assessment rate would apply to all affected properties.
Another amendment makes clear that the City, rather than the management of the NID, will have the power to impose liens on appropriate properties.
Another removes a portion of text which said that the NID would have the power to “purchase real property,” a provision which many longtime residents saw as a threat to their neighborhood.
Previously, the bill called for three classes of NID board members (A, B, and C). A new amendment removes that provision, and clarifies that all board members will have the same voting power.
The amendments added Tuesday do not address one of the biggest concerns of some community members: that owner-occupants, who would not be affected by the extra assessment, do not get a vote on whether the bill will go through.
Ultimately, that question will still be decided by owners of the affected properties: landlords in the area.
Jonathan Weiss is owner of Templetown Properties, which holds more than 50 rental properties in the North Central neighborhood the NID would assess. He supports the NID, he says, because he’s invested more than money in the neighborhood.
“If you look at the example of University City District,” Weiss said, “I think virtually everyone who lives, works, goes to school, teaches, sees the benefits of what that organization does in terms of the quality of life in the neighborhood, and that’s really all we’re after.”
Councilman Clarke, in whose district the proposed NID would sit, sought to allay the fears of his constituents by emphasizing that the process to create the District will be a long one, and that he would continue to incorporate their wishes into any bill that eventually goes before Council. He also insisted that the NID proposal is the best way to deal with the symptoms of Temple student housing moving into the area.
“What I want to make sure is that people understand that this was created as a result of significant concerns by members of the community based on the activities of student housing and the students that live within the housing, period,” Clarke said.
He added, “The amendments that we introduced today, in my mind, will pretty much eliminate all the concerns raised today as it relates to this particular proposal.”
Judith Robinson, a community resident who opposes the NID, disagreed. “Even with the amendments,” she said, “this bill is uncalled for.”
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