The Orlando City Council is set to approve a referendum that would allow property owners in Downtown South to vote to increase their property taxes to help improve the area.
The tax would be a 2mil increase and is only for the 449 property owners in the Downtown South Neighborhood Improvement District (see map). The tax would bring in about $650,000 a year.
If approved by City Council on Monday, the city would mail registered property owners a ballot on May 5 and have until May 20 to get their ballots back to City Hall.
The Clerk will count and weigh the votes based on assed property value. The initiative needs more than fifty percent of the assessed property value to pass.
A Downtown South Neighborhood Improvement District would then make recommendations to the Orlando City Council on how the district would spend the money.
The Downtown South Neighborhood Improvement District came out of various conversations and studies that have been taking place in the Downtown South area over the past five years.
The City and the neighborhood put together three different plans together to identify potential improvements that would benefit the area. A South Downtown Vision Plan in 2009, an Orange Michigan Vision Plan in 2010 and a Safe Neighborhood Improvement Plan in 2013.
As City Planer Jason Burton explained it the Safe Neighborhood Improvement Plan identified three main areas of improvement for the area “transportation, transportation and transportation.”
The three transportation initiatives identified were street scape improvements to Orange Ave and Michigan Ave, Lymmo expansion into Downtown South and additional street improvements such as bike paths.
The plan, which the advisory council adopted, doesn’t include any specific renderings or drawings for what the district would spend the money on, just the top-level priorities and that is causing some property owners to decide not to support the referendum.
“I don’t think a case has been made where this is going to help support the value of my property,” Scott Crossman told the Advisory Council at their latest meeting.
Crossman, who owns property across from the SoDo complex, along with a handful of other property owners stressed that they aren’t opposed to improving the District or paying to improve it, they just want to get a better sense of the plan.
“There’s a lot of things I’d support. There are a lot of things I won’t. But I don’t what the plan is,” Crossman told Bungalower after the meeting.
The reason for the lack of specifics is that the District would be a partner in any of the improvements.
“You have to have the local contribution to get in the door to plan those improvements,” Burton told Bungalower.
He said the neighborhood began looking at the type of improvements that they wanted to make and knew that in order to get the other partners, such as FDOT or Lynx, on board the neighborhood needed to come up with some funding. That, he says, is where this new revenue source is helpful.
The projects such as street scape, Lymmo and other transportation improvements are already identified “it’s just that this money is only a portion of the money that is need to accomplish the project,” he said.
Some of the planning is already happening. We told you back in November that the FDOT is beginning to look at alternatives to Orange Ave in that area. The district could then use this funding to make the improvements more neighborhood friendly.
The city is also working on improvements to Division Ave from Kaley St to Gore St.
“Both of these projects present the opportunity for the DSNID to partner with the respective jurisdiction during the next few years to make improvements to the area that will benefit residents and businesses. Without the revenue generated from the additional ad valorem tax the DSNID would not be in a position to partner with FDOT or the city on these projects,” advisory Council Member Rex McPherson told Bungalower.
While some of the business owners at the most recent meeting discussed opposing the initiative, any opposition would have an uphill battle if the initiative goes to referendum.
Orlando Health has discussed opting into the tax to help pay for the improvements but in doing so they now constitute what would be the equivalent to 22.5% of the vote.
Orlando Health has already made street scape improvements to their property as part of their master plan but would be helping to fund the overall plans for the District.
We reached out to Orlando Health for comment but had not heard back at the time of publication.
The Orlando City Council is scheduled to vote on Monday on if the initiative should go to referendum.
We’ll keep you posted with any progress.
Here’s a look at the map of the properties included inside the Downtown South Neighborhood Improvement District: