King Street business owners who want to be excluded from a new taxing district for the street will have the opportunity to opt out this week.
Charleston City Council will host a meeting at 5 p.m. May 17 at city hall to hear objections from business owners. The meeting is part of the standard approval process for a special taxing district.
The Business Improvement District will place an additional tax on all commercial property owners on King between Broad and Line streets. Proponents of the district stress the proposed tax, called an assessment, is based on property value and will not increase the overall bill for a commercial property owner by more than 4 percent.
The proposal originally drew scrutiny from some business owners when it was approved by council in January. More than 20 public speakers went to the meeting or submitted comments online voicing concerns. Most were fearful the district, which aims to fund beautification efforts, would draw in high-end chains while pushing commercial rents up.
For a $1 million commercial property, which under South Carolina law is assessed on 6 percent of its value, the new tax would amount to $678 per year.
Out of the 467 properties included within the BID, about half will pay less than $500 more per year, the nonprofit Charleston Downtown Alliance estimates. The alliance is a nonprofit entity that will manage the BID’s funds.
The group is made up of area business owners, including Chris Price, president and owner of commercial real estate firm PrimeSouth Group; Lou Hammond, founder of public relations firm Lou Hammond Group; Rhett Outen, co-owner of Croghan’s Jewel Box; and Helen Hill, CEO of Explore Charleston.
The improvements funded by a BID are aimed at keeping the district attractive for both visitors and business owners through additional street cleaning, decorations, event planning and security.
An early draft budget from the Charleston Downtown Alliance shows an annual income of about $1 million to spend on services for the district. Roughly 60 percent of that, or $600,000, would come from the new tax on commercial property owners. The rest would come from contributions from the public sector, fundraising, grants and income from programs.
Organizers of the BID were required to gather support from property owners representing over 50 percent of the district’s property value. At the time of approval, the King Street BID had written support from owners representing 55 percent of the property value on the street, totaling 101 owners.
One of the budget priorities touted by the alliance and utilized by other BIDs is the establishment of an ambassador program for the street. The ambassadors, hired by the alliance, would walk along King Street offering direction and guidance to visitors. They can also assist with security concerns by notifying police of loitering and other issues.
Some have expressed apprehension at supporting the idea.
“The BID, as it currently stands, will only lead to further gentrification, Black displacement and wrath disparity,” said Allyson Sutton during an earlier City Council public comment period. Sutton co-owns Sightsee Coffee just off of King Street.
“I’d love to see more business owners of color, as well as business owners who do not also own their property, to be represented on the board in order to better represent the street itself,” said Jessica Nicoles in a write-in comment during a previous public comment period. Nicoles owns King Street boutique J. Stark.
The district would see its first revenue from the tax in 2023.
Reach Emma Whalen at 843-708-5837. Follow her on Twitter @_emma_whalen.