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LA MESA -- Sunday may be a day of rest, but not for the supporters and opponents of the Property Based Improvement District in the La Mesa Village.
PBID supporters, including La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid, met for more than an hour with the First Methodist Church to discuss the proposal that would, if approved, ask that congregation to contribute more than $3,300 a year to help increase maintenance, security and promotion for the heart of the city's traditional commercial district.
The congregation was cordial, but did question why houses of worship were required to participate in a program when they are tax exempt organizations.
Proponents of the plan included Lynn McRea, chairwoman of the PBID Steering Commitee, and Jim Wieboldt, a member of the steering committee and also a board member of the First Baptist Church, also located within the PBID zone.
McRea told congregation members that the PBID is a special assessment district and, by state law, any property owner receiving benefit from the PBID operations would be required to pay an assessment.
"It's not a tax,'' Wieboldt explained. "It's something we all agree to pay because we want the augmented services.''
Wieboldt explained that his church, which will pay about $2,300 per year, saw it as an expression of support for the city and because his church wanted the added security and street cleaning the PBID would bring.
"It's precisely because we don't pay property taxes that we felt the $230 per month we'd be paying is a good deal for us,'' Wieboldt said. He took a moment (see photo right) to formally sign his church's petition supporting the PBID as the Methodist congregation looked on.
Isabel Sousa, a member of First Methodist, pressed the PBID leadership on whether it would actually increase its annual spending by 5 percent per year, which the PBID draft documents would allow.
McRea and Wieboldt said the state law requires that the documentation acknowledges a 5 percent increase in PBID assessments is possible, but that the committee intended to avoid increases.
McRea said she is on record as saying she would support a public statement of the committee's intentions to live within the original $370,000 budget as soon as the process would allow for that action. McRea and Wieboldt both said they would consult with the PBID consultants to see how that assurance can be given "in writing'' as Sousa requested.
The PBID effort is currently in a petition phase in which the 130 or so property owners within the La Mesa Village PBID area are being asked to conduct a formal ballot procedure to establish the district.
On Sunday, Madrid explained to the congregation that the city is poised to spend $5 million from a number of sources to rebuild La Mesa Boulevard. Without a PBID in place, Madrid and Wieboldt, who also serves as chairman of the City's Parking Commission, said the street rebuilding project would have to be scaled back if La Mesa Village property owners are not willing to contribute to the upkeep of the rebuilt street.
Madrid said spending on the renovation would be more in the $1-million range without a PBID in place to support on-going maintenance.
When asked what benefit church members would get from the PBID, Madrid said they would have improved security and enhanced services above what the city currently supplies in street cleaning and trash removal.
Bill Jaynes, who operates All Things Bright and British, and Deena While, a La Mesa Boulevard bookstore owner, both attended Sunday's meeting but did not address the audience. Jaynes and While are among a group of PBID opponents who fear the new assessment will be too hard on merchants already struggling in a challenging economy.
But McRea and Wieboldt pointed out the PBID has the support of the president of the La Mesa Village Merchants Association and many business owners who feel that without the investment, The Village will struggle and lose ground to other retail centers.
Both supporters and opponents of the PBID proposal are scheduling further informational meetings with residents of the area. Eventually, formal public hearings on the issue will be scheduled before the City Council, which will have the final say in whether the district goes forward.