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Downtown Business District Proposed
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Downtown Riverbank merchants protested more stores will fail in that area if nothing is done but city council members were concerned business people would not welcome new assessments when a proposal to form a business improvement district (BID) failed before the council on Dec. 13.

"We've done a lot of research. There is a serious problem downtown," said downtown business leader Dr. Dennis Zinner. "There's no money. It will become a ghost town if we do nothing. We've formed a committee. We're only asking you to look at the idea."

"Riverbank businesses started in the downtown," said Daryl Daniel, Sno-white restaurant owner and another committee member. "Then they moved out, first to the O'Brien's Market area then the Crossroads. Here True Value has closed down. The coffee shop (Zavattero's) folded. That's what happens if you build one restaurant after another. Maybe we should bulldoze the whole downtown."

A third chamber director Milli Sanders also argued on behalf of forming a BID.

The resolution to form a BID and appoint the three Chamber of Commerce directors as an advisory board looked like it would pass after newly seated Councilmember Richard O'Brien withdrew his opposition on condition all the area's business owners, not just a few, be asked their opinion.

But the resolution finally was shot down 2-1 by Councilmember Jesse James White. He wanted to hear more details including whether the businesses would be willing to pay $20 per month for district assessments.

With Mayor Virginia Madueno not voting because she is a downtown business member, the resolution required a unanimous 3-0 vote to pass.

City Director of Economic Development Tim Ogden noted in his written memo the law allows the city to establish an area and levy annual assessments on businesses for improvements and activities within a specific business district.

Improvements can include parking facilities, benches, trash receptacles, street lighting, decorations, parks and fountains.

Activities can include public events that benefit area businesses such as furnishing of music and promotion of tourism.

The proposed BID would be bounded by Atchison Street to Patterson Road and by Callander Avenue to Eighth Street. There are approximately 100 businesses within these boundaries and many residences but residences would not be assessed.

Modesto has a BID; formation of one in Riverbank is in the city's downtown specific plan and has been suggested before by professional consultants and community leaders, Ogden added.

Having three chamber directors who are downtown business owners on the BID advisory board would bring the organization, credibility and strength of the chamber to implementing its work. Appointing the advisory board is the first step in a process leading to the district's proposed formation, Ogden said. The advisory board would need to present a report to the council before further work.