KINGS BEACH, Calif. - The proposed formation of a Benefit Assessment District upon completion of the three-lane project through downtown is getting mixed reaction from local business property owners.
The 294 parcel owners within the boundaries of the approximately $48 million Kings Beach Commercial Core Improvement Project, a multi-phase venture to resize Highway 28 that includes roundabouts, are being asked if they're in favor of contributing to the $166,000 annual fee associated with the upkeep of streetscape aesthetics.
"It makes sense to maintain it once complete," said Richard Smith, owner of Sierra Shirts and Shades, who voted in favor of the district. "It has to be maintained, and I don't see how it can be done any other way."
Some businesses in the area are seasonal, Smith said, so relying on individual property owners to maintain the improvements along their frontage could be problematic.
Funds collected by the assessment district would mostly go toward covering snow removal on sidewalks, and to a lesser extent: trash removal; power washing of sidewalks; reserve funds for damage, repair or replacement of improvements; and administration fees, according to Placer County.
Questions regarding the impact of a large snowfall year on assessments and liability for sidewalk accidents are among areas of concern for Julie and John Wainscoat, owners of Brockway Bakery.
"I would like to get some answers before making any particular reply," Julie said.
Perry Deas, co-owner of Lake Tahoe Specialty Stove and Fireplace, said he voted in favor of the district, but would have liked to have seen the assessment more spread out.
"I think the assessment should be the entire community ..." Deas said. "The sidewalks benefit the entire community, not just the businesses. It should be a joint effort just like anything we get assessed for - the schools, the fire department."
As the assessment stands now, if approved, Deas would be charged approximately $950 annually, he said.
"It's pretty comparable to probably what I'm spending now," he said, adding the cost to maintain the outside of his store both in time and money is at least 1,000 annually.
Assessments would be based on property zoning, the property's state of development and whether it fronts streetscape improvements, according to the county, meaning property owners will have different assessments.
For Smith, his proposed assessment is about a $1,000 annually.
"It's acceptable," he said .
While Julie Wainscoat declined to provide her proposed assessment fee, she said it was based on the zoning of a non-residential block, which she questioned, since she and her husband live above their business.
She also said she wonders how much the zoning of their property impacted their assessment.
In order to get answers, Julie said she and her husband plan to attend a public hearing before the Placer County Board of Supervisors during its first Tahoe meeting of the year on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach. The hearing will be held simultaneously at the County Administrative Center in Auburn.
Afterward, the assessment ballots, all of which were sent to district property owners in early December, will be counted to determine if a benefit assessment district should be formed, according to the county.
In order for the district to be approved, ballots returned in support, weighed by their dollar amount, must exceed ballots returned in opposition, which also will be weighed by dollar amount, according to the project's website, kingsbeachcore.info.
If approved, a new charge will be "levied in perpetuity" and listed on the affected party's property tax bill once the streetscape improvements are installed, according to the site.
Also, if approved, district property owners would have the right to be heard at a public hearing held by the county board of supervisors each year. If there is "sufficient" protest to the assessment, there are procedures in place to dissolve the district.
According to previous reports, the highway portion of the project, which aims to improve bike and pedestrian safety and the aesthetics and feel of downtown, is likely to get under way this year and will take at least two years to complete.