Despite a thick stack of amendments to the preliminary plan for the North Central Neighborhood Improvement District proposed by Council President Darrell Clarke, a thicker crowd of neighbors turned out to speak against the bill at a City Council committee hearing today.
"I'm not fundamentally opposed to this concept, I'm opposed to the process that brought us here today," said former city managing director and Temple University Board of Trustees member James White, who has worked in the neighborhood for 33 years. He said that there were too many unanswered questions about who would control the Neighborhood Improvement District and there had not been enough community input during the early stages of its drafting.
Clarke proposed the NID after he was approached by a group of landlords who formed the Temple Area Property Association in 2008 to help resolve problems between the community and students, developers and landlords, according to cofounder Mark Zwick.
"A group of landlords decided that, as much as we hate taxes, we hate the crime and blight that surrounds us even more and are willing to commit our own funds to this neighborhood to make it a place everyone can be proud of," said fellow TAPA member Peter Crawford.
Temple University also supports the NID and is expected to make a sizable financial contribution toward it, Clarke said.
As the legislation stands now, it will be helmed by the North Central Management Corporation, a nonprofit created for the purpose that will have a board of two directors from the community, two from local businesses and two from Temple. The NID will be financed by a fee paid by commercial properties, including rentals, within the district.
But many residents of the neighborhood perceive the proposed NID to be a power grab by outsiders to take land away from the community and put its future in the hands of developers hungry to raise rents and build student housing.
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"These developers have been allowed – look at Google maps – and have actually sectioned off our neighborhood for the taking, ignoring sections that are undesirable where students still live," said resident Judith Robinson. "Let's not cut out an area for the developers and deny the homeowners the same resources."
Other concerns included the provenance and financial particulars of TAPA and the proposed Management Corporation, as well as the financial stress the tax may place on the local businesses, which some community members expect will cause them to raise rental rates and pass on costs to their customers.
"As an entrepreneur, I will be paying approximately 16 percent in taxes over five years and these people will be a second government for me," said landlord and resident Vivian VanStory.