Marks introduces bill to streamline business district process

Legislation introduced by 5th District County Councilman David Marks last week proposed a streamlined process for the proposal and implementation of Commercial District Management Authorities in Baltimore County, which could clear the path for a business improvement district in downtown Towson.

"I put this bill in last week to make a change to the sequence of things that would need to occur," Marks, who represents Towson, said.

"If you read the bill right now, the council would both have to approve the organization of a bid, and then separately the financing for a bid." Marks said. "My bill makes it so that those two elements can be considered together."

The existing bill, which Marks said was passed by former Towson Councilman Doug Riley in 1992, allowed for business improvement districts such as Baltimore City's Downtown Partnership of Baltimore to be established in the county.

Marks said Pikesville tried to establish a business improvement district that year, but the organization never materialized.

The new bill does not directly target Towson, Marks said, though he acknowledged discussions have taken place about the feasibility of such an organization in the area.

"My concern is we're going to have such a level of density and development in the next 10 years that we're going to need some sort of structure to provide for maintenance, security and landscaping," Marks said. "There's discussions that have been going on throughout the summer, quite frankly, about how we pay for things."

Those discussions have taken place with the Towson Chamber of Commerce, which represents many of Towson's smaller business owners, and the Greater Towson Committee, which Marks said deals more with the larger downtown Towson landowners.

One way to fund such improvements would be the business improvement district, which would require a fee from the local businesses to fund the services provided. The other option is to depend on donations, either from the county government or business community.

Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, said that raising money from the community and soliciting both financial and volunteer support has always been the chamber's preference.

"Right now, we wouldn't support anything like that," she said of the business improvement district.

She does, however, understand the need to maintain the downtown area, especially after the loss of county grants put the chamber in a hole this year.

"There's so many great things coming into our community," Hafford said. "We really want to make it as nice as possible."

Bill 63-12 will be discussed at a council work session at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 25, before a vote at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1.

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