Mayor seeks to mix it up in panel

NASHUA – Mayor Donnalee Lozeau is looking for variety when she appoints people to a committee exploring the concept of creating a downtown tax district.

Lozeau said she wants the committee to include members for the idea, who are dead-set against it and who are undecided.

Lozeau said she hopes to present to the board of aldermen “a good cross-section” of downtown property owners, including owners of various types of properties and businesses and from various geographic parts of downtown.

“I have put a significant amount of thought into this,” Lozeau said.

Not all the names presented will be restaurant owners or owners of retail stores, for example, Lozeau said.

Also, she wants the committee to represent property owners with varying views of the proposal to fund a downtown Business Improvement District, or BID, with a new tax on downtown property owners.

A varied committee would be best to have the discussions and “do the ‘heavy lifting’ to determine what the right thing is for the downtown,” Lozeau said.

The board of aldermen last month voted to form a committee that would explore the concept. The services advisory committee ultimately would govern the BID, if one is formed.

The seven-member advisory committee largely would be made up of downtown property owners appointed by the mayor. One member would be an alderman appointed by the board president.

So far, 20 people have volunteered for the positions, Lozeau said. She will meet and present an information packet to each.

She’ll present her nominees collectively to the aldermen, and the candidates will undergo the usual interviews and approval process that volunteers for other city boards and commissions.

The BID would provide a way to pay for enhanced downtown services, such as trash and snow removal, and marketing by imposing a tax on property owners within a defined area downtown.

Such a district is permitted under state law. In New Hampshire, a BID has been credited with helping to revitalize Manchester’s downtown over the past decade.

In Nashua, Great American Downtown has been spearheading the push to create a Business Improvement District, and a committee of city staff, elected officials, businessmen and property owners has been meeting for a year to plan the district.

An initial recommendation is for the district to extend from the Hunt Community north along Main Street to the Hunt Memorial Building, and then a block or two east and west. Within those boundaries, nonprofit organizations would be exempt from the tax, which would be roughly 95 cents to $1.10 per $1,000 of property value.

The budget would be roughly $165,000 a year.

If the district were created, GAD would stop collecting its members’ dues of $250 a year.