Creating a downtown development plan

In spring of 2012, The Downtown Sheridan Association and the City began a process to create a strategic plan to further economic development and the continued revitalization of downtown.

This Downtown Business Plan was completed in August of last year, resulting in a business development work plan for business support, recruitment and retention in downtown Sheridan.

The plan contained a feasibility study of a Downtown Development Authority in Sheridan. This included a high level of community and stakeholder input in an effort to determine whether a DDA would be right for Sheridan, and if so, what the “Sheridan” model would be.
In general, a DDA can enhance Sheridan’s downtown management by focusing business and economic development efforts in downtown, creating an environment for leveraging public and private investment.

Upon completion of the feasibility study, the DSA has made a recommendation to pursue the establishment of the Sheridan Downtown Development Authority (SDDA) tailored specifically to the economic development needs of downtown, as identified by property and business owners engaged in the process.

The basic provisions of the recommendation include:
• The proposed SDDA would work in cooperation with the Downtown Sheridan Association.

The DSA would continue to be the working agency for implementing the downtown work plan, while the SDDA would serve as the economic development committee of the DSA, pursuing capital projects, parking management, etc.

• The SDDA would not pursue a special property tax assessment, nor would it result in an increase in taxes to businesses, property owners, or the consumer.

• Instead, it is recommended that the SDDA if established, would pursue an innovative funding mechanism called tax increment financing to apply resources for public infrastructure improvements in downtown.

A TIF program is not a new tax like a local option sales tax.
Rather it is a mechanism whereby the increased revenues resulting from a growing tax base (natural increases in sales, new retail development), is used to help pay for public enhancements, such as new parking resources.

• While it is recommended that the SDDA would pursue a TIF, that is not part of the current project, and would ultimately result in an altogether new public process.

Since completing the Downtown Business Plan, a legal review of the potential SDDA structure and its duties has occurred, draft documentation for a potential SDDA has been drawn up, and a list of all property owners and contact information for downtown has been compiled.

In order to be established, a petition of at least 25 percent of the owners of non-residential property within the district would be submitted to City Council followed by public hearings. The DSA is now beginning a campaign to educate and build support for a potential SDDA, with the goal of forwarding the recommendation to Sheridan City Council. Representatives of the DSA will be engaging property owners and stakeholders individually to share the details of the proposal, beginning on June 25th.

All background, documentation, and recommendations are available to the public at www.downtownsherdan.ning.com.

Interested parties are encouraged to visit the website for additional information, to ask questions and join in the discussion.

Stacie Coe is executive director of the Downtown Sheridan Association. Aaron Arnett, principal at Arnett Muldrow & Associates, contributed to this column.