Questions and confusion surround new downtown services proposal - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Questions and confusion surround new downtown services proposal

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© Wilmington City Council plans to give Wilmington Downtown Incorporated the task of assessing the downtown area for a new service zone, specifically titled a Municipal Service District. © Wilmington City Council plans to give Wilmington Downtown Incorporated the task of assessing the downtown area for a new service zone, specifically titled a Municipal Service District.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Wilmington City Council gave Wilmington Downtown Incorporated Tuesday night the task of assessing the downtown area for a new service zone, specifically titled a Municipal Service District.

Jim Bitto, president of the Downtown Business Alliance, said he has heard from at least ten people, including business owners, who are confused about what this Municipal Service District proposal would even do. 

He has reached out to a number of people regarding the topic. The sentiment is the same from each party - no one quite understands the plan being presented.

"Not knowing creates anxiety, so the anxiety level is real high on this project right now because there are so many unanswered questions," Bitto said.

One cause for concern is the fact that there are multiple types of district.

"The confusion between the fee district, the no fee district or a tax district - we need some answers to these questions," Bitto explained.

Ed Wolverton, the president of Wilmington Downtown Incorporated, will be looking into whether or not this zoning plan would be accepted in Wilmington. He explained more about the Municipal Service District in an interview Tuesday.

"It is a designation by the state, that local jurisdictions can make to create a defined area to provide extra services above and beyond what the city may provide to other neighborhoods," said Wolverton.

According to Wolverton, there are two forms of Municipal Service District (MSD): one is tax-free, the other is not.

"It's truly just creating a zone; an economic opportunity development zone," Wolverton explained.

The tax-free zone would allow for the city to reimburse economic development projects in the zone with money from the city's general fund, according to Wolverton.

The other form of MSD requires taxes and provides extra services to those living or operating within the boundaries.  The Wilmington Downtown Inc. president said the services provided by the MSD can include cleanliness, security, and marketing.

Wolverton said 50 cities in North Carolina have MSD programs.  He said the only tax-free program is in Cary, NC.

No definitive lines have been drawn for the zoning proposal, but much discussion on the topic thus far has centered on the Water Street parking deck.

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