More homeowners want out of Hillsborough Street business tax district

ccampbell@newsobserver.comMay 21, 2014 

— When City Councilman Russ Stephenson asked to be left out of a special business tax district for Hillsborough Street, he pointed to other owner-occupied residences that were excluded from the tax.

But several homes remain in the proposed tax district expansion, and the some homeowners there say they don’t want to pay, either.

The Raleigh City Council will review a plan next month to extend the Hillsborough Street Business Improvement District east along Morgan Street and north to Cameron Village. The district plans to charge an additional 15 cents per $100 valuation in property to fund business recruitment efforts, host events that draw visitors to the area, and maintain the street through its “Clean and Safe” program.

And while the new boundaries carve out Stephenson’s home, architecture office and rental units on Oberlin Road, they include the Ellington Oaks townhome community off West Morgan Street.

More taxes, few benefits?

Homeowner Sue Adley-Warrick estimates the plan would cost her nearly $300 a year in additional taxes. “I don’t see that we would benefit,” she said. “We have an association that’s responsible for taking care of the common areas. We see very minimal issues of litter around the fringes of the property or any kind of crime.”

Adley-Warrick said no one consulted the community before sending out a mailed notice that didn’t mention the tax hike, though the organization’s leaders have since been receptive to her concerns. But email records show that representatives from the Hillsborough Street organization met last month with Stephenson and homeowners from a nearby townhouse development. Their requests to be excluded were granted.

Adley-Warrick said her neighborhood doesn’t need extra help to thrive, pointing to the recent construction of luxury apartments down the street. “I think it’s a very advantaged part of the city right now,” she said.

Special residence problems

Officials from the Hillsborough Street organization say the boundary extension is intended to create a seamless transition to a similar tax district serving downtown Raleigh. And the Hillsborough tax district has included a number of residential properties since its creation – among them the small cluster of townhomes on Trillium Whorl Court.

Likewise, the downtown tax district includes most of the condominium buildings in the city center. Bryan Andersen, who chairs the board of The Dawson Condominiums, said city leaders shouldn’t exclude townhouses from the Hillsborough tax district while continuing to tax residential property downtown.

Andersen said he sees very little benefit to homeowners from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance and the Hillsborough Street organization. He also takes issue with a city councilman avoiding the tax. “That really upsets me that he’s trying to carve himself out of an exemption,” Andersen said.

For his part, Stephenson has said that the Hillsborough Street organization’s board should develop a formal policy governing residential property around the district.

Adley-Warrick agrees that all homes should be treated equally. “You want to have the appearance of being even-handed, and everyone gets the same treatment,” she said.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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