The Brighton Principal Shopping District meeting Tuesday was a contentious one, as several downtown business owners objected to the PSD’s proposal to double the current assessment.

The current multi-year assessment is set to expire in April and at this time nothing has been decided upon to replace it. Through the assessment, the PSD is able to provide funding for various strategies and promotional efforts. The proposal by the PSD Board is to raise the current annual assessment of 14 cents per square foot of first-floor space to 28 cents. The cost is less for those in Zone 2, on West Grand River, away from what is generally regarded as “downtown" Brighton. The current and proposed assessments would also be lower for second floors. However, some business owners feel that doubling the rate would be excessive.

One property owner, who owns a building on West Main St., says the PSD has good intentions, and he understands what the organization is trying to accomplish. However, he says if the city really wants to help the business owners, it should address the parking problem, calling it “horrendous”. The owner, who does not want to be identified, says he already pays $15,000 a year in property taxes and another $18,000 in health insurance, and to double the PSD assessment would be more than he can afford. He says his cost with the increase would come to $1,000 per year just to fund aspects like “branding,” which he claims is a waste of money. Opponents also say the rules are stacked against them because it requires signatures by two-thirds of the property owners to stop an assessment from taking place.

On the other side of the issue are people like Lisa M. Baker Nelson, owner of Hush Intimate Apparel on West Main, who is vice chair of the PSD Board. She says the PSD has few, if any, options to fund its initiatives. “We’ve lost funding from the state’s property tax fund capture,” she says, maintaining the PSD has no other funding sources than the annual assessment. She says expenses such as maintaining and upgrading the downtown Christmas lights, which in the past were funded partially by the Downtown Development Authority and Chamber of Commerce, are no longer given financial help by those entities, leaving the entire burden to the PSD. This past holiday season, the city helped out by having the Department of Public Works put up the holiday displays, whereas in past years an outside company did it, for a substantial fee.

Baker Nelson says the PSD has a lot of good ideas to promote the downtown. “(For instance), we want to do more brand definition so people know it’s downtown Brighton,” she says. Baker Nelson asserts that the assessment increase is far from a done deal, and there will be two series of meetings coming up to discuss the proposal and get input from business owners. The meetings will be held on Jan. 30th at 8 a.m. and again at 6 p.m. and on Feb. 8th, also at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. The different times are in order to accommodate busy merchants who have stores to run and can’t make the meeting at another time. Both series of meetings will take place in council chambers of city hall. (TT)