LEBANON, Missouri- A group of property owners along Lebanon’s Elm Street/Route 66 corridor took baby steps Tuesday night toward forming a Community Improvement District (CID) that could lead to drawing more customers to their businesses.
“We’re trying to create an environment that will foster growth along Elm,” City Administrator Mike Schumacher told the more than 30 property owners, business operators and Route 66 supporters who attended an informational meeting at the Lebanon-Laclede County Library.
Schumacher explained that a CID is a not-for-profit corporation with its own board that determines how to spend a small additional sales tax. The tax is collected only within the CID and can be spent for betterment projects only within the CID. Boundaries are drawn to exclude property owners who don’t want to be in the CID.
“It’s a powerful tool,” he said. “It’s a powerful tool because it’s managed by people within the district.”
Lebanon already has two such districts: Lebanon Marketplace, the shopping center on South Highway 5 where Sutherlands is an anchor; and the small business area in southwest Lebanon where McDonald’s, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and a gas station are located.
Schumacher stressed that the CID would not be connected to Lebanon city government – “I’m not here pushing it,” he said – although the city would benefit from increased business on Elm Street. He also said the focus isn’t Route 66, although “if they want to do Route 66 stuff, they can do that. It’s their choice.”
Money must be spent to benefit all property owners within a district, not just one, he said.
Asked what projects a CID should do after being formed, Schumacher suggested streetscaping (improving the appearance of a street), cleanliness, such as paying to have trash picked up in parking lots every morning, and “branding and marketing along that whole stretch to bring more traffic into your business.”
Schumacher said a CID for Elm Street/Route 66 is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Only those property owners who want to be included would be included. Fifty percent-plus-one of property owners within a proposed CID must approve it.
He said a CID could be as small as a circle of businesses surrounding the Munger Moss Motel. But in that case, “those are the only businesses where the money goes.”
One business owner questioned whether the additional sales tax would make businesses within the CID less competitive, but others pointed out that the slight sales-tax difference between Lebanon’s two McDonald’s — one in a CID, one not — isn’t noticed by most customers.
Schumacher said Lebanon has the lowest sales tax in the immediate area except for Fort Leonard Wood and is mid-range for similar-sized cities statewide.
Enough of the property owners present raised their hands in support of the CID that the discussion will move to the next step, which Schumacher said is the creation of an informal group to contact other businesses and to start drawing CID boundaries. He said City Attorney Chris Allen will provide legal services, with the city to be reimbursed for Allen’s legal fees by revenue generated fron the CID sales tax. The city will absorb the fees if the CID isn’t formed, Schumacher said.
State Auditor Nicole Galloway recently said more than 400 CIDs exist statewide, including 15 in Greene County.
The Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society board endorsed the formation of the CID on Route 66 at its Aug. 7 meeting.