JANESVILLE

If Tuesday’s plan commission meeting is any indication, a proposal to establish a business improvement district in downtown Janesville has almost total support.

City Economic Development Coordinator Dayna Sarver said she has only heard one voice of dissent, and that was two hours before Tuesday’s meeting. The commission voted unanimously in favor of the plan.

Downtown Janesville Inc.—formerly known as the Downtown Development Alliance—wants to create a business improvement district, or BID, to make downtown safer, more welcoming and more attractive.

If the city council approves the BID, businesses within it would be charged annual special assessments, and owners would pay a certain percentage of their properties’ assessed values based on where they’re located. The proposed operating budget is $100,000, Sarver said.

Money raised would go toward beautification, extra snow removal, events and a part-time manager who would help coordinate Downtown Janesville Inc.’s efforts, among other things. Certain properties, such as residential and city-owned properties, would be exempt from contributing to the BID.

Several residents showed up to Tuesday’s meeting, the majority of them Downtown Janesville Inc. members. Everyone who spoke favored the BID.

It’s a complete 180 from 2008, when stakeholders shot down plans for a BID.

Downtown Janesville Inc. took a different planning approach this time around by asking downtown business owners to help shape the BID and how it will work. The final BID looks much different than Downtown Janesville Inc.’s original draft, officials said.

“I think the homework has been done on this one,” said George Brunner, commission chairman.

On top of that, ARISE, the city’s downtown revival project, is in full swing, which could contribute to this BID’s success, members said.

“The climate downtown is tremendously different. Revitalization is happening; it’s not just being talked about,” said member Dave Marshick.

Member and local developer Britten Langfoss said the BID’s part-time manager would allow Downtown Janesville Inc. to do work its volunteer members don’t have the time, money or resources to do.

“It’s very exciting,” said member Jackie Wood. “People realize now that the downtown affects the community as a whole.”

With the commission’s approval, there’s a mandatory 30-day waiting period before the Janesville City Council can consider it. The plan won’t reach the council at all if owners whose property assessments equaling at least 40 percent of the total BID value sign a petition against it, Sarver said.

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