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by Mark Cheffey
An early step was taken Tuesday in a proposed effort to establish a historic downtown district in Palmyra.
Approximately 30 people, many of the owners of property in Palmyra’s downtown area, attended a meeting to hear proposed ideas for generating revenue to help revitalize the city’s central business district.
The more-than-an-hour long meeting was let by Corey Mehaffy, executive director of the Hannibal Regional Economic Development Council, which has been tabbed by the city to assist Palmyra with the endeavor.
Discussions of ways to bring back Palmyra’s downtown have been going on for some time, but has taken on more strength of late through the city council, led by its representative on the HREDC, Brock Fahy.
The discussion has included ways to not only save existing buildings, many of which are now historic, but to make sure they are filled with revived business activity.
“It seems we defined ourselves by what we are not, when it should be that we define ourselves by what we are,” Mehaffy said, in outlining the possibilities for Palmyra, based on existing programs offered in the state of Missouri, and which are helping other communities like Palmyra.
Mehaffy outlined a plan calling for Palmyra to establish a historic downtown district that would feature different mechanisms for funding infrastructure and property improvements as well as incentives for business development.
Specifically, Mehaffy recommended establishing:
• a Community Improvement district that would serve as a special taxing district with an additional sales tax used as a public financing mechanism;
• a Chapter 343 real estate property tax abatement system within the district with the abatement being equal to the CID property tax levy, making it tax neutral for the landowners; and
• a Neighborhood Improvement District, within the same boundaries as the CID, which would allow municipal bonds to be issued for public infrastructure projects, such as storm water sewers, sidewalks and street-scape.
After his presentation and a question and answer period, Mehaffy asked for reaction to the proposals from those in attendance.
While there was very little reaction, given the general mood from the gathering was positive toward exploring the program in more detail.
Mehaffy outlined a rather complicated series of steps to implement all three programs, that would included holding numerous meetings, determining the actual boundaries of the districts and completing legal paperwork, and said it would be about a year to get it all going.
“It will take some time to get things in place, before the money starts flowing.
In answering questions from the audience, Mehaffy said any tax issues would affect only those businesses and residents within the district, and that a specially appointed board to oversee the district, which is essentially its own political subdivision, and its programs.
Mehaffy said the programs are helping other communities in Northeast Missouri and specifically noted Moberly, where he came from before moving to Hannibal.
He said Moberly’s four-year-old historic downtown district, known has the Depot District, has boosted property evaluation from $3.2 million to $3.7 million and has resulted in the adding of 11 new businesses as well as the expansion of others.
The district has used the revenue generated to fund numerous infrastructure and building improvements.
Mehaffy said there would be more meetings ahead and that one of the first objectives would be to settle on final district boundaries.