If formed, Community Improvement District would collect sales tax for Route 66 projects

LEBANON, Missouri- Lebanon City Administrator Mike Schumacher suggested Tuesday that the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society consider creating a Community Improvement District to raise money for the future promotion and preservation of The Mother Road.

“If we’re going to save ’66,’ we need to do something,” Schumacher told the Route 66 Society board at its monthly meeting.

He said Mayor Jared Carr agrees that Route 66 is a draw for Lebanon. “The mayor has a vision, you have a vision. We have to figure out a way to fund it.”

One option, Schumacher said, is to make the Route 66 corridor through Lebanon a “multiproject redevelopment” area similar to what Springfield city officials are proposing for the Kearney Street corridor.

‘The mayor has a vision, you have a vision. We have to figure out a way to fund it.’

–Mike Schumacher

According to the Springfield Business Journal, city officials there “are seeking to blight 388 acres along the corridor and enable 100 percent property tax abatements on developer improvements within the Kearney Street Corridor Redevelopment Plan.”

Although Schumacher didn’t mention it Tuesday, Kearney Street was one of the later alignments of Route 66 through Springfield. The national website Route66News.com has been reporting on the Springfield proposal and a tax-increment financing district implemented in Springfield, Illinois, to boost business development along a stretch of Route 66 there.

“Other Route 66 towns that have suffered through similar problems will be watching both Springfields to see which plan of action works,” a report on the website said this week.

Schumacher said another option for Lebanon is to create a Community Improvement District (CID) along the Route 66 corridor. The CID would have its own board of directors and, with approval of voters within the district, could establish a sales tax to be collected by businesses within its boundaries. The CID board then could spend the tax revenue on public improvements to benefit Route 66 and, in blighted areas, on contracting with property owners for the demolition, renovation or rehabilitation of buildings.

The boundaries of the CID would exclude a business that doesn’t want to be in it, Schumacher said.

“There’s no heaviness here,” Schumacher said, emphasizing that this isn’t a case of a new city administrator promoting a new tax.

“This isn’t a city deal. It’s not our money. It’s the (Community Improvement District) board’s deal,” he said.

But he said the city wants to “brand” Lebanon, and that Route 66 is part of that.

Schumacher said the Route 66 Society, not the city, would be in charge of creating a Community Improvement District, although the city attorney would provide legal advice. The attorney’s fees would be repaid by the CID with the sales-tax revenue.

The Route 66 Society board took no action on the CID at Tuesday’s meeting, telling Schumacher that it wanted to get the opinion of a major Route 66 business owner first.

Schumacher said he also plans to meet with downtown businesses about forming a downtown Community Improvement District.

In another Route 66 matter, Schumacher said the city is pricing signs to identify Elm Street as “Historic Route 66.” The signs will include a heart representing the slogan that Lebanon is the “Heart of Route 66.” Installation “won’t be long.”

And John Shelton, director of parks and recreation, said more sidewalks will be added to Route 66-themed Boswell Park soon, and he is considering installing Route 66 information blocks, similar to those at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, in the sidewalks.

Shelton said completion of the striping of the mini-Route 66 in the park has been turned over to the city street department, which has more expertise than the parks department in striping.

Replica Burma-Shave signs also are planned.

He said he continues to seek an authentic Route 66 shield to install at the park.