Montgomery County Council leaders continue to push for a BID in downtown Silver Spring

The bill to create a Business Improvement District for downtown Silver Spring may have been vetoed last week, but Montgomery County, Maryland, Council members who support the idea say it will be back.

In the meantime, they’re working to show that the idea will benefit businesses big and small.

Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker told reporters in a briefing Monday that the BID is badly needed because “we’re falling behind Arlington and Alexandria and so many other locations that have done a much better job at promoting their assets.

He added, “That’s one reason already so many businesses have written to us urging us to override the veto and get the BID up and running.”

But Karen Roper, director of development for Fenton Village Incorporated, a nonprofit that promotes up to 200 small business owners, remains opposed. Roper said the council “didn’t include us in any way” in the bill.

She’s concerned that the membership of the nine-member board would include three seats for those businesses with property assessed at more than $20 million.

The legislation also provided seats on the BID for two business owners whose property is assessed at less than $20 million, one business employing 50 people or more, and three businesses employing 50 or fewer employees within the BID.

Still, Roper said, a number of small businesses opposed the plan, adding, “It’s not believable that they’re going to protect us — come on; it’s just not.” She also said the vote on the bill appeared rushed, while questions about the operations and funding remain among businesses in the Fenton Village area.

Hucker said concerns of small business owners, including those in Fenton Village, were brought to the attention of the council. “The concerns I’ve heard are heartfelt, and we responded, and we passed numerous amendments to the bill, and now we have a good law,” said Hucker.

During Monday’s briefing, Hucker said input from small businesses is part of the process: “We have staff in Silver Spring today, bringing a survey door-to-door” to small business owners, “asking what types of additional services they’d like to see, what types of marketing they’d like to see” and asking what’s missing.

Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz said the council has some oversight over the operations of the BID and added, “We will re-engage if we feel in any way that this does not do what it is intended to do. … It’s in everyone’s best interest for us to raise all boats here in Silver Spring” he said, referring to efforts to improve the economic outlook for the community.

Council member Will Jawando has opposed the structure of the BID and supports the Fenton Village business owners. He and County Executive Marc Elrich appeared with the group before Elrich vetoed the bill.

But Hucker said the council has enough votes to override, and that the issue will come up when the council returns from recess next month.

Roper responded, “This fight isn’t over.”

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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