October 10, 2013
Starbucks - Voluntary Payer
SoDo Pop - Mandatory Payer
Most SoDo property and business owners would pay a new tax for neighborhood business promotions, networking and clean up services starting in 2014. The tax would be assessed through a new SoDo Business Improvement Area. The BIA initiative will be discussed at a community meeting Tuesday, October 29, at SoDo POP, 2424 1st Avenue South, 5 - 7 p.m.
Jodi Opitz, who owns SoDo Pop, feels the tax is both unfair and unknown. “Many of the people who will pay it don’t know about it and won’t benefit from it,” said Opitz, who is hosting the October 29 meeting. “We want to talk with people about our options.”
The BIA would impose a property tax assessment of $.50 per $1,000 in assessed property value every year for five years.
State law requires cities to notify “each business” within a proposed BIA that a BIA is being considered. In SoDo, the City of Seattle only notified property owners and other representatives for 354 real estate parcels.
But, the city’s focus on property owners failed to account for hundreds of SoDo business owners who will pay actual BIA costs because they operate under “triple net” leases that require tenants to pay property tax assessments levied against landlords.
Opitz surveyed 63 SoDo businesses about the BIA proposal before it came up for a City Council vote. Only one had heard of the BIA proposal. 56 have triple net leases that require them to pay BIA costs. 62 feel they will receive no benefits from the BIA.
State law also allows the city to adjust BIA assessment rates or boundaries based on the degree to which a company might benefit from BIA services. The City Council instead approved a flat rate that will be assessed whether businesses benefit or not.
The same rate will also be applied in spite of local business conditions.
The assessment rate would be the same along 1st Avenue South as it is along Airport Way, 6th Avenue South or 4th Avenue South. And, the rate along those north-south thoroughfares would be the same one applied to properties along east-west roads that dead end at railroad yards.
But, in spite of the blanket approach, not everyone in SoDo will be forced to pay.
The largest private property owner in SoDo – the BNSF Railway – is exempt from the assessment. Public properties, such as those owned by the Seattle Public Schools, Sound Transit and Metro, will also be exempted from the tax, although they will have the option to voluntarily contribute to the BIA.
Under its lease, Starbucks Coffee would also not be required to pay for its corporate headquarters building, although the company says it will voluntarily support the BIA.
Yet, literally across the street from the Starbucks office complex, Opitz would have no option.
Her BIA payments would be mandatory. Yet, she feels that the BIA will not provide any services that will benefit her property or the bands and other entertainers that use her building.
The Port of Seattle and the Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle asked the City Council to take more time to review the SoDo BIA proposal. The council declined to extend its review, but it amended the proposal to require that the BIA advisory board include SoDo tenants and MIC representatives.
Key administrative details must still be worked out before the BIA becomes a reality. Topics for the October 29 meeting at SoDo Pop will include representation on the BIA board.
For more information, contact Jodi Opitz at 206-353-2625, or at email@example.com.
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