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Old Town Business Association presents revised fee structure

Mosquito week, Black and White Affair discussed at city council
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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The Old Town Business Association presented a revised assessment fee structure to city council Monday night. At a city council meeting in March some Old Town Auburn restaurant owners said the fees were being spent on projects and events that only benefited retail establishments, and in some cases even hurt their hospitality businesses. Old Town Auburn Association board members said many of the people complaining had never expressed their dissatisfaction prior to the meeting. After hearing from each side, city council passed a motion at the March meeting that the Old Town Business Association had to find a way to restructure its board to have a broader representation of businesses and reassess the fees it levies by May. They heard the association’s proposals Monday night to provide guidance as to whether changes were on the right track. Despite mixed reactions from council members on the newly proposed fee structure, members moved forward by appointing the city manager as the advisory board to both the Old Town and Downtown Business Improvement District, the special tax district which oversees Auburn’s business associations. The council also set a public hearing for June 11 to review the proposed fees for the business improvement districts. Michael Colantuono, city attorney, said after a review of the laws surrounding business improvement districts, it became clear that a business can’t opt out of paying the assessment fee to the business improvement district it operates in, but it can forego membership in the business association, which the city currently contracts with to spend the funds collected. The newly proposed fee structure lowers the fees for multiple hairstylists working in a single business to $25 a year, with the main business owner paying $100 a year, sets fees for those providing professional services at $250 per year and charges the rest of the businesses a tiered rate based on gross revenue, according to Don Baker, treasurer of the business association and owner of Awful Annie’s Restaurant. “We feel confident in those rates and still maintaining a budget to keep OTBA running,” Baker said. The association said its current representation structure is fair, has two restaurant owners on the board and allows any business to get involved. Councilmember Dr. Bill Kirby said he doesn’t agree that professionals should pay less than other businesses. “I think the professional services are getting to skate by because they also benefit from the location and ambiance,” Kirby said. “It seems a little off-balance.” Councilmember Keith Nesbitt said he believes the rates should be capped at between $400 and $500. He said under the proposed structure some of the restaurants that protested the way that fees are spent would actually be paying the most. “I would like to see the maximum fee be $400 to $500,” Nesbitt said. “I think you have made a step in the right direction, but you are not all the way there.” In other news: • Mayor Keith Nesbitt proclaimed this week Mosquito and West Nile Awareness Week and commended the Placer Camera Club’s 60th anniversary. • City Council heard an update from the Auburn Chamber of Commerce on the Black and White Affaire proposed for Downtown Auburn. Those in favor of the ball shared their plans for reducing the event’s footprint in the area and keeping the event safe, while those opposed to the event said it has caused damage to the area in the past, presents a threat to public safety and doesn’t belong downtown. Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.