One of the agenda items that City Council had this past month was a petition from residents of East Liberty to establish a Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) in that section of the City. Under the NID law, a petition is not binding and it is ultimately the decision of the governing body to create a NID. If 40% of the affected property owners submit written opposition about the district then the NID is nullified. We last wrote about the mechanics of the NID in two pieces in 2002.
The purpose of the NID is to levy additional special assessments on the property owners within the district in order to promote economic growth and development.
So how many NIDs are out there? According to data from the PA Downtown Center in Harrisburg, there are 32 including districts in Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland. A third of them are located in Philadelphia. All but two are active and assessing their particular levy according to the Center. The Center did not count a few tax increment financing projects (Victory Center, Pittsburgh Mills) that utilized the NID legislation to provide additional financing, even though their use was a complete perversion of what was intended by the legislation. The proposed WEHAV program for the West End of Pittsburgh underwent similar scrutiny in 2002 for its aim and focus.
What City Council and East Liberty need to decide is this: will higher fees and more government intervention promote the type of future the community desires?