Bill that creates business improvement district for Silver Spring heads for veto

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich says he’ll veto the county council’s legislation that creates a business improvement district for Silver Spring, Maryland.

In a news conference in the Fenton Village area of Silver Spring Thursday, Elrich said, “I was really disappointed with the rush to vote on this bill.” He argued that the structure of the BID puts “white wealthy business owners in charge of investment and being able to tax people.”

Elrich said he plans on vetoing the legislation that passed the council 7-1.

There are nine county council members.

Council member Will Jawando was the lone opposing vote and Council member Nancy Navarro was not present for the vote.

Council President Tom Hucker, who sponsored the bill along with Council member Hans Riemer, said Friday that he’s confident the council will override Elrich’s planned veto. Six votes are needed for an override.

Hucker also argued that there’s language in the bill that deals with concerns over governance of the BID.

Under the legislation, the board of directors of the BID would decide on the tax rate for the district, and how money should be spent on items, including marketing plans.

Hucker said under the bill that passed, some of the business members who spoke in opposition to the legislation would benefit from the actions of the BID. He said they would not be subject to tax increases the BID might pass because they are tenants.

Under the legislation, taxes called for by the BID would be paid by property owners, not tenants.

When the council voted on the bill, Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz said he wished he’d had more time to study the legislation, calling it a “really important” decision. However, Albornoz said he would support the measure as it was badly needed.

Hucker said a BID for downtown Silver Spring was not a new idea. It had been discussed for years, and that given the problems facing the business district — petty crimes, job losses, a lack of foot traffic — “I’ve reached the conclusion we need all hands on deck to address the challenges.”

Jawando, who with Elrich spoke out against the legislation, voted against the measure.

“We’re building on a really shaky foundation,” Jawando said when the vote was taken, adding that “legacy business owners,” a number of small businesses, were upset with the governance structure of the BID.

A group of small business owners joined Jawando and Elrich in criticizing the legislation.

Lene Tsegaye, co-owner of Kefa Café, said she was disappointed with the council for passing the bill that she felt would shut out minority small business owners like her.

Hucker said the legislation gives the county council enormous control over the BID, and that it will have to abide by the county’s racial equity provisions “because otherwise, they’re not going to get their money.”

“We set the BID tax, we have to approve it,” Hucker said.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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