Lawsuit Against Covington Business Improvement District Dismissed

A lawsuit filed in February against the City of Covington, the Covington Business Council, and the Urban Partnership has been dismissed.

Scott Street Land Company and Berger Family Real Estate filed the suit to stop the proposed Business Improvement District (BID), a project in which Downtown Covington business owners would elect to assess themselves an additional tax in order to fund clean-up, promotional, and infrastructure-related programs.

The Covington Business Council (CBC) through its affiliated Urban Partnership (UP) is spearheading the effort to create a BID and is still in the process of collecting the necessary number of signatures (51% or more of property owners representing 51% or more of the property value).

Kenton County Judge Patricia Summe determined this week that the lawsuit would not go forward.

"Plaintiffs cite no law requiring a certain procedure to be followed in setting the boundaries of a management district; furthermore, the management district has not yet been established so the boundaries have not yet been set but remain merely proposed, and therefor the assertion that boundaries proposed by the City here are arbitrary and unlawful does not state a claim that upon which relief may be granted," Summe wrote.

Rick Wessels of Scott Street Land Company, which owns the massive Gateway Center office building, told The River City News in February, "The way we look at it is, we pay in excess of half a million dollars in real estate taxes already. Covington has a lot of good things going for it now, a lot of positive development going on, but the issues Covington has are not going to be solved by higher taxes and this proposal for this special taxing district has been a campaign of misinformation for well over a year now."

Wessels' lawsuit charged that the defendants repeatedly manipulated the boundaries of the BID in order to limit it to supporters as well as government and non-profit entities which are mostly exempt from the additional assessment. "It's not even a business district," Wessels said. "Two-thirds of the property in the district is owned by government and non-profits so by its very definition it is not a business district and those entities pay a reduced rate versus private business, so you can't call it a business district when two-thirds are not businesses."
 
Pat Frew, executive director of the CBC and UP, said in February, "There are more than 1,200 BIDs in the United States and Canada, including various examples closer to home in Cincinnati and Louisville and all of these BIDs have been successful in providing economic development, planning, advertising, maintenance, and other amenities to strengthen businesses and we are confident the same will be true in Covington." 
 
The Urban Partnership had spent more than a year cleaning up the streets and removing graffiti in Downtown Covington through its Clean & Safe program, offering these totals: trash collection of more than 80,000 pounds, 757 weed abatements, 5,950 flowers watered, 704 intstances of graffiti, and 51 code enforcement issues forwarded. The program was discontinued in December pending approval of the BID.
 
Read the full court decision:

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Proposed Covington Business Improvement District

Photo: RiverCenter Blvd. in Downtown Covington/RCN file