News

Lebanon hopes new court decision will boost downtown business

Written by John Latimer/Lebanon Daily News | Aug 10, 2017 4:22 AM
Ed_schock_lebanon.jpg

Lebanon attorney Edward Schock, whose office is in the Business Improvement District, explains to City Council why he thinks the voting for the BID was flawed. (Photo: John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News)

(Lebanon) -- You win some and you lose some.

In the same week that it lost a court ruling that cleared the way for the establishment of a day reporting center in the downtown business district, the city won its fight to establish a Business Improvement District in the downtown.

On Friday in a 2 to 1 decison, a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court panel of judges denied attorney Ed Schock's appeal of his earlier suit claiming the city erred in its voting method for establishing the Business Improvement District.

A Business Improvement District, or BID, is an economic revitalization tool that levies a fee on commercial property owners in a designated area to pay for services that go beyond those provided by taxes. Such services could include sidewalk cleaning, beautification projects and downtown ambassadors to help visitors find their way.

The money also is used to pay for the salary of downtown manager Kelly Withum, whose job is to market the city and increase its visitors.

The city's BID area is a roughly 15 square blocks with Cumberland Street at its center. 

It contains 358 properties, 78 of which would be exempt from paying the BID fee, either because they are a nonprofit or a residential property.

To prevent the BID from being established, 40 percent of property owners in the zone had to vote against it in writing that was notarized.

Schock filed his lawsuit against the city because the property owners exempted from paying the BID fee were given a vote, effectively giving them representation without taxation.

That argument was overruled in December by Lebanon County Common Pleas Judge Bradford H. Charles on the grounds that the law allows property owners who are "affected" by the district or who will "benefit" from it the right to vote.

That argument was essentially the same one used by Judge Anne E. Covey and Judge Robert Simpson, in a ruling written by Simpson.

Senior Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, however, had a dissenting opinion.

Acknowledging that the state statute language is vague, Leadbetter favored Schock's argument by noting in her opinion that by the law "designating a limited class of 'affected property owners ... the General Assembly cannot have intended to mean all property owners. When it intended to mean 'all property owners' it said so."

Schock's original lawsuit delayed the hiring of Withum for a year.

Although the case was still in court on appeal, Mayor Sherry Capello said a decision was made to hire Withum in February because the BID sunsets after five years. At that time property owners will again have to vote to continue it. 

 

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and the Lebanon Daily News.

Published in News

Tagged under , , , , , , , ,

back to top

Give Now

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Smart Talk

National Edward R. Murrow Awards

DuPont Columbia Awards

Support Local Journalism

Latest News from NPR

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »