Friday Question of the Day – Should Businesses be in a tax free zone during streetscape construction?

Above is a photo of what Sticky Fingers endured during the Park Road Streetscape improvement (across from the Giant Grocery store in Columbia Heights.) And of course many businesses on H St, NE are enduring similar sights while the streetcar rails are installed.

Here is some legislation being considered:

Streetscape Construction Small Business Relief

Do you think this is a reasonable request from Small Business owners given the current financial situation the city is in?

54 Comment

  • Should the businesses pay double the taxes after the work is done since all the improvements will bring extra traffic?

    • Silly comment that contributes nothing here.

      • How is that silly? His point is that the streetscape projects are designed to elevate the profile of the neighborhood. And it likely will. and in doing so bring more people to their businesses. How is that not relevant? In the long run the businesses here will see a bump. In the short term maybe a dip. So it all works out in the end. But if you do want to give them tax free status during construction. then why not tax them extra to recoup those breaks after the fact? sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

        • It’s a tax deferment. So you defer the taxes during the construction period so that people don’t go out of business when there’s less traffic to their stores (this is good for everyone), and then the businesses pay it back over time later.

          So YES, it IS like the businesses paying nothing now and then double taxes later.

  • Yes, they should get a break during construction.

    • I agree. If a public project significatly disrupts traffic to a private business, there should be some consideration by the municipality.

      Construction can completely obscure and shut down a business for the duration of the project. If you think that a new sidewalk or repaired water main will somehow raise their revenues in any way whatsoever, then you’re unhinged.

      • I would agree if the project wasn’t one designed to IMPROVE the business district. And yes their revenues will be raised after CH has been totally revamped with public plaza and fountain and farmers market directly accross the street from Sticky Fingers. Or did you think the pea gravel was attracting more people to the plaza who might want a cup of coffee to boot?

  • Mmm….In this case, I think no. If these businesses had been here before the DCUSA development came to CH and were merely innocent bystanders caught up in the redevelopment, I’d say yes. But in this case, all of these businesses moved in after the redevelopment had started, knowing full well that there was years of construction ahead. Obviously if the construction was going to be so disruptive to their business, they wouldn’t have located here. I’m sure the businesses would welcome a tax break–we all would–but I don’t see any real ‘undue hardship.’

    captcha: damnedest this,

    Shouldn’t captcha be curse-free?

    • No undue hardship ? Really ?

      Obviously a comment made by someone (probably in the comfortable bloated public sector) that’s never had a store front retail business, never had to make a payroll, and knows little of what it takes in the day to day month to month struggle to keep retail doors open within a diminishing 2010 private sector that provides the very revenues that make that allow the public sector to subsist.

  • The Graham proposal is a tax deferment which only postpones for a period of time (one year) taxes that still have to paid when you haven’t much revenue if any at all with construction at your front door. Customers think you’re closed.

    This is a serious issue. Many of the businesses along the delayed P Street reconstruction did not survive, closed for good and no longer exist. Rents and real estate taxes still have to be paid while all this goes on.

    A real estate tax abatement on real property taxes per linear foot frontage that must be passed onto the tenant with reduced rents in the same amount of the abatement would better and more directly help the retailers plight of little or no revenue during the construction.

    In the larger picture, tax revenues from commercial properties make up the lion’s share of all city revenues from the myriad of all the different taxes and fees imposed upon commercial property and their occupants operators with much higher tax rates and devised fees than residential property.

    I do find it interesting how there’s so much compassion and empathy in this blog for our neighbors that don’t produce or work, and contribute little or nothing to our city other than just inhabit; and yet have so little compassion or understanding for the revenue generators and risk takers -those neighbors that do something for than just inhabit, work, produce, create, contribute and make something of their lives.

  • Actually, revenues from all property taxes make up ~25% of city revenue. Commercial tax revenue is therefore much less than 25% of the actual revenue given how little commercial property space is available in the city.

    I think a tax deferral and/or abatement for tearing up the streets in front of a business is appropriate regardless of when a business moves in. I don’t think that abatement needs to go to the property owner, only the renting storefront business. The land owner is not negatively affected by the street being torn up. However, a person running the actual storefront does suffer so a tax abatement for that person dealing with a loss of foot traffic is appropriate.

    I think this city suffers from too few sources of revenue given the level of human services that it wants to provide, however, I don’t think the city’s business people need compassion as much as they need a coherent and competent DCRA and with the city councilman not shaking down businesses for campaign contributions (Gray).

  • I think deferring taxes is one thing. They can pay them back when construction is complete. But do you really think the city needs to go throwing tax give-aways to businesses that are about to reap the rewards of a streetscape project paid for by MILLIONS of tax dollars as it is. We are already on the hook for MILLIONS of tax dollars for the stupid DCUSA garage.

    • Donatelli got breaks for Petworth and for Highland Park. And, those aren’t being deferred, the taxes are just a giveaway.

      Hard to say no now to the actual functioning business owners who are getting screwed over by this mismanaged construction process. The business people don’t have 9 lives, especially the independent ones.

      Those road crews ought to be working 6 or 7 days to get the streets and sidewalks restored, but they don’t work late and they didn’t work last Saturday.

  • You’re not going to hold us hostage here with these yellow lights and all these big trucks! Now I want you to admit there’s nothing wrong with the street!

  • I know non-food and beverage businesses along the 18th Street corridor with severely reduced revenues struggling in a down economy that are behind in their rent multiple months.

    The 18th Street Streetscape project in Adams Morgan begins this Summer and continues for the next two years. It will be the death knell of many businesses along both sides of 18th Street from Florida Avenue to Columbia Road.

    There should be some consideration given to them, in particular the non-food and beverage.

    In the larger picture, private investment and private capital follows good government doing what it should do -infrastructure.

    The return to parallel parking, the 16 foot tinted exposed aggregate sidewalks, the 22 foot bulb outs at every intersection and alley, the new globe light posts, and all the other improvements will make the 18th Street corridor much more pedestrian friendly, a real destination and a feeling of having arrived somewhere special.

    In a short three to five years, we might not recognize the 18th Street corridor and Adams Morgan with this new streetscape coupled with last month’s announcement that the high end hotel is indeed coming -a 5 star, 9 story, 160 room Ian Schrager/Bill Marriott boutique Edition Hotel at Euclid and Champlain Street.

    These two changes may very well alter the neighborhood dramatically for the long term, being the catalysts to garner incrementally more private investment in the years to come bringing positive, and perhaps more upscale change to this area one address at a time with perhaps less of the bar scene there now.

    Fix-er-up row houses along Kalorama, Ontario, and Champlain have been sold in a matter of days after listing and for even more than their list prices in anticipation.

    Surviving the bridge until then, Adams Morgan may well enjoy a better quality of life and become a more high end, cosmopolitan destination in our nation’s capital.

  • No tax break. The businesses benefit from the improvements once they are complete.

    • Right, but if they can’t generate enough cash to pay their fixed bills for the month and they go out of business, then there’s a vacant storefront for a number of months and the neighborhood suffers from the loss of the business.

  • Anon10:07- Can you link to confirmation the boutique hotel is back on? I thought it was shelved due to the economy. Glad to hear it’s back on. When do they break ground? Any renderings?

  • I just cant wait how annoying it will get for us car driving people when there would be bikers on these single lane streets… I need my tax dollars back

    • sell your car and walk those chubby legs of yours down the street. The money you save not having a car will put plenty of dollars back in your pocket

      • And, you’ll lose even more weight when you get rid of your refrigerator and indoor plumbing! Fresh food and sanitation are making us obese!

      • What a complete unnecessary comment. Give me 10 reasons why someone doesnt need a car and you’ll show everyone how you have a completely unhinged view of life.

        • Everyone needs a car? Tell that to the many of us who don’t own one and are extremely happy that they don’t!

        • lol. oh wait. you’re being serious?
          you do realize car owners are the minority in this city. That alone means they are not in anyway a necessity. rather a luxury. But if you need reasons. I would say a good place to start would be foreign oil. and pollution. but hey those are minor things. You want to talk tax rebates? How bout huge tax rebates to those who chose not to drive in the city? Lessening pollution and congestion.

          • janie4

            bulls–t. No seriously, Bull__t! Households with no vehicle available constitute 35.5% of all households in DC. Data from the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census. So whether or not actual car owners are a minority in this city – the majority fo households have access to at least one vehicle. So please do not tell me that owning a car in this city is a luxury. Can you do without it – yes. Is it incredibly inconvienent and difficult to do – yes. You don’t want a car, fine. Doesn’t make you morally superior to those that do. Further, all of those things you mentioned – pollution, dependence on foreign oil – yes, they are externalities of owning a car. However, the alternative to owning a car is using mass transit to get long distances in a reasonable time.

            Buses – use gas, diesel or natural gas. Fossil fuels. More people using mass transit, more buses needed, more fossil fuels needed to transport them. Alternative – metro – electricity – powered by coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear – fossil fuels. Altenrative energy does not produce enoguh constant load to be usable by WMATA. More of those types of fossil burned mor epeople use it. Of course, that’s our own coal, so that’s our own pollution.

            And even if we all go to mass transit, that means clustering around mass transit, which means using things like trucks to bring in products. Face it, you haven’t reduced you carbon foot print or your dependence on fossil fuels or even evil foreign oil. You’ve just made a personal lifestyle choice subsidized by others. Unless you’ve never borrowed someone else’s car to go get grocieries?

          • Nora- first off. Yes I said car owners are in the minority. No mention of households. For instance the house next door to me has 5 driving-age people living in it and only 1 of them owns a car. The other 4 bike everywhere. So you see even though that qualifies as a household with a car. Only 20 percent of that household uses one. So NOT ‘bulls__t” as car owners ARE in the minority.
            Next up. It is incredibly inconvenient to not own a car? say huh? I don’t own one. and as noted MOST in this town don’t We don’t feel the least bit inconvenienced (but thanks for trying to speak for us). No insurance bills. No rising gasoline to buy. No yearly muck to the inspection lines. No calling AAA when I get a flat. (yes I did own a car at one time and I sure don’t miss it)
            Next in your line of weak logic is that mass transit uses fossil fuels too. Sorry but the science has long been in on that one. Per person mass transit riders use FAR less. The S buses on 16th street for example are far outnumbered by cars on that road but carry up to 60 percent of the people.

          • I own a car to drive to work (in non-Metro-accessible suburbs). I could pay far less in rent and still only drive 10 miles to work every day if I lived in Fairfax County, but I chose to live in the city so that everything else I do doesn’t need to involve a car. I can go grocery or clothes shopping, eat dinner or go to a bar, visit a park or go to the theater all without having to drive anywhere.

            Although a majority of the people in this city may have access to a car if necessary, it seems clear that a significant portion of the city’s population spends the majority of its time getting around the city on foot, public transit, or bike. For many people (myself included) city traffic and expensive parking make driving from A to B within the city too much of a pain to want to bother. And although my housemates have access to a car because they live with me, none of them would seriously consider borrowing it to do anything short of moving furniture.

            Should the city develop its roads to accommodate us as a car-owning household? If so, I’m going to be hella annoyed next time I walk to the grocery store or my housemates take the metro to work only to find that our walkable streets have been replaced with 6 lane roads.

        • Yes, I own a car. but I use once every two or three months. I only keep it because it’s paid off and still functional. Once it finally gives up the ghost (it’s now 15 yo), I’ll just use zip car when it’s absolutely essential to drive.

          Your “10 reasons to have car” may make sense if you live in the burbs nowhere near a Metro or bus line. But if you live in the city, it doesn’t.

          I wish fewer people drove. Maybe I wouldn’t keep getting almost knee’d and nearly run over by cars not yielding right of way.

          Personally I admire the cyclists. I wouldn’t have the guts, the way people drive around here.

  • I, for one, just find it really annoying that all the streetscape improvements have lagged so far behind the actual construction of the buildings. It’s just dragging on for years. Let’s get it done already.

    Meanwhile, the city is actively hurting businesses by suddenly making paid parking at meters all over the city active on Saturdays, too. I went to Adams Morgan last Saturday and had to feed $3-$4 in quarters over the course of an hour and a half…I just decided that’s the last time I do any shopping there, or anywhere else that has parking meters. If I can’t walk to it, I’m going to Silver Spring or Takoma Park.

    I don’t have a problem giving tax breaks to businesses in philosophy, but the fact that the city is turning around and nickel-and-diming all their potential customers is very annoying.

    • Hop on your bike. I can get from petworth to Adams Morgan faster than a car. And parking for me is free when I get there. Also, being that this is the city, you can take a bus or the metro. But if you insist on relying on your automobile. Than yes. Silver Spring is the place for you.

      • I bike all the time to work, but I don’t bike everywhere – lots of times I’m buying/picking up stuff I can’t carry back on my bike or I’m going somewhere where I want to look presentable (not sweaty, wearing bike clothes, carrying a helmet) and plus I don’t like leaving my bike on a street anyway. Business owners definitely know that if their business can be easily accessed by people in many ways–on foot, on bikes or on cars–it’s good for their business. The whole city just took a step that will hurt small businesses open on Saturday – I doubt these businesses would be happy to say “we don’t need any customers who drive.”

    • I haven’t a car, but

      The BID announced earlier this year, that there’s now a cheaper alternative than paying on street parking meters in Adams Morgan.

      Daytime parking now costs less than meters at both of the off street Colonial Parking garages (2400 block of 18th Street East side, and the huge parking garage at Champlain and Florida Ave).

  • Petworth Res, maybe the city has to do that to make up for the financial shortfall they face over the fact, during last winter’s blizzard/snow, the city didn’t do anything to remove piles of snow from blocking parking meters all over the city. I was astonished–I guess they just figure money grows on trees. It was weeks after the blizzard in some places. A competent city government would have put a full effort into going around in the middle of the night (while the streets are deserted) and removing snow from spots with parking meters.

    But then again, we live in DC.

  • And oh yeah, all you “too cool for school” peeps who think people who drive are lesser than you, I have one question:

    Just where on earth do you think YOUR FOOD comes from? Do you think it’s biked in or something? Maybe urban rickshaws?

    You are a fool if you think, just because you choose not to own a car, that your dependence on cars/oil/energy to keep you from starving and/or freezing to death isn’t basically the same as that of the person who does choose to own a car.

    • Wow. what? huh? I. what? so because food gets trucked into the city we may as well all drive cars? I. what? where to begin? what an idiot.

      • Anon, it’s pretty simple actually. The means by which you choose to convey your body around from place to place makes up a relatively tiny amount of the overall energy that is spent to keep you alive. From massive machines needed to harness and clean water, to massive machines needed to irrigate crops and feed the animals that make up your diet, to massive machines needed to manufacture the end product you eat, to massive machines needed to transport that food into the city, to massive machines needed to put that food onto your plate.

        And that’s just in the area of what you eat. There are also massive machines involved in every step of every process for (1) the roof you put over your head, and (2) the clothing you wear.

        . . . and that’s just the core basics for remaining alive, before you even consider such relative luxuries as travel, and accumulation of the things and adornments that allow you to be the total douchebag you are.

        In the end, by the time you even get to the question of whether or not you choose to own a car, we are talking about PEANUTS in regard to “carbon footprint”.

        • janie4

          Krusty – thank you. Not having a car is a lifestyle choice. They have chosen not to have to deal with the hassle of owning a car. Perfectly fine. But they are not any less polluting (public transit creates pollution, sicne most of it is bus related) and while they may be less dependent than us on foreign oil, they’re more dependent on domestic coal. And again, 65% of households in this city have access to at least one car. So yeah, you may as well all drive cars. It’s a fairly efficient way of getting around.

          • I was going to refute… again. your reposted nonsense. But I think your idiocy speaks for itself

            “And again, 65% of households in this city have access to at least one car. So yeah, you may as well all drive cars. It’s a fairly efficient way of getting around.”

            What is it 1980 up in here?

        • Kustie- You are gonna have to start posting with more credibility if you actually want me to bother refuting your nonsense. Til then take it from me that not ferrying yourself around in a car is indeed a significant cut to ones carbon footprint. And in all likelihood those that go with out cars are not ones to accumulate a lot of “stuff” to make us total “douchbags” . But anyway. stellar comments my man.

    • It is a pretty idiotic analogy to make.

  • I hope the legislation is expanded with a systemic method to provide relief for small businesses across DC who get unsustainably damaged by new construction, whether or not it is associated with streetscaping. For example, Caribbean Belly, a small grocery that has been in the Petworth neighborhood since 2000 is struggling to reopen after a series of issues brought the store to its knees. One challenge has been the construction next door at 3910 Georgia. The construction is a welcome improvement over the previous empty lot, but it has not bolstered the ability of Caribbean Belly to generate or sustain the business it needs. It is not the fault of the city, the developer, or the business, and thus it could be a good candidate for relief.

  • janie4

    Anon –

    for some reason, I can’t respond to your comments.

    65% of households in DC have access to a vehicle. So the four residents in the house next door that don’t own cars can go to the airport for an early morning flight without having to arrange a taxi, or find a ride outside the household. They can borrow the car to go buy grocieries in bulk. Which is convienient.

    Arranging your life around not having a car – is inconvienent. You have chosen to make the tradeoff. Others haven’t. It’s not a moral judgment.

    However, claiming that car owners shouldn’t be taken seriously because they’re a minority of people is ridiculous – 20% of the population is under 18 and probably doesn’t own a car. Does your survey factor those poeple out?

    About the same number of workers who live in this city commute by car and drive alone as ride mass transit. So apparently, about the same number of people who are city residents consider commuting alone as convienient as mass transit.

    The point Krusty was trying to make was that car usage is a very tiny part of the benefits of your life that have a carbon footprint. Even without one, you still have a pretty big carbon impact. So while reducing your trips is a good thing for you, it doesn’t actually do much for the environment. You still live with a fridge (plastic, petroleum based and what keeps you from getting food poisoning) you still have a computer (plastic, silicon, etc.) and you still use electricity.

    • Heck, the big, honking HVAC unit that ventilates Anon’s home probably spits out more energy in a month than my big, honking SUV will in its entire life. And yes, I proudly drive a big, honking SUV. Sometimes i even leave the lights on in my home, just because. The difference is, i don’t preenishly believe i’m better than anyone else.

      • I assure you that you are correct in believing you aren’t better than anyone else. First bright thing you’ve said all day.

      • janie4

        LOL. I’m not down on non-car owners. They’ve got as much right to not own a car as I do to own one. On the other hand, I’m not evil for liking the convienience, and thinking that my voice should be considered in making traffic policy.

        I have three cats. Having a car means that I can get to the vet in the case of an emergency without needing to call a cab. When my cat was bleeding all over the floor, that was wonderful. My mother has an SUV – she has a 125 pound dog. He has the best temperament of any dog I’ve ever known, but it comes from centuries of big dog living. Should her choice to have a large dog be judged? Others have SUVs or big minivans because they have kids, who are now in car and booster seats until 8.
        Face it, all modern society is one massive environmental impact which mother nature is trying to take away from us as fast as she can.

        To tell you the truth, 90% of the hostility between car owners and non-car-owners in this city would be eliminated if DCDOT could sync the lights properly. (the traffic light syncing in this city is probably what causes 50% of the road rage in this city). Then we would feel like at least the one part of the city’s transportation policy that should at least somewhat allow traffic to flow (with proper consideration of pedestrians, and bicyclists) worked. You shouldn’t get stopped every block going 20 miles an hour (or 15). I have sat at lights and seen them timed so that as the one in front of you turns, the one a block away goes red.

        • Nora, my theory on the traffic lights here is that, like the traffic circles, in their design they are meant to stifle the rapid escape from town of an invading army. We are the capital, after all.

        • saf

          They are deliberately not synched, as a traffic calming measure.

          • janie4

            But it doesn’t calm traffic, it actually encourages people to run lights, jump the gun, and speed. If traffic doesn’t flow, people become more agressive, not less. I believe in traffic calming, but DC has taken it to an unhealthy extreme, especially on streets like 9th, which are not particularly residential.

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