ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester City Council voted to move forward with ‘Introductory 255’ Tuesday night in a 6 to 3 vote. Proposed by Mayor Malik Evans, the measure gives the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation (RDDC) the go-ahead to move forward with their efforts to put together a ‘district plan’ for a proposed Business Improvement District (BID) in downtown Rochester.

Traditionally, a BID is meant to bring more business to downtown by providing added services that would help make that happen. Those services are determined by the need at the time but could include things like added security or sanitation.

RDDC President and CEO described BID’s as, “tried and true tools to facilitate recovery for downtowns that have experienced some disinvestment. It’s really to build on pre-existing energy and enthusiasm for downtown and to provide and be a steward of inclusive thriving places.”

According to Brooks, the mayor is proposing the BID for two reasons. First, to provide a management entity to the Roc the Riverway program. Second, to facilitate recovery for those in the downtown business scene that has been suffering.

Over the past few months, the proposal has stirred controversy between city council and downtown arts advocates.

Those activists fear implementation of a BID could result negatively. They’re concerned rent prices for small businesses going up in order to pay for the additional services a BID provides. When those activists requested more communication with city council, they say council was not cooperative.

Rochester City Council voted to pass the proposal Tuesday night. Mary Lupien, Stanley Martin, and Kim Smith were those who voted ‘no.’

“I’ve been trying to educate myself and I’d like more time to educate the community,” Mary Lupien said. “We need to understand how the governance of the body will happen. We are giving away taxing authority and will have no real say in how that money gets used.”

“This feels troublesome… contradictory. We are going to vote against the people who are showing up because we want to start the process? It seems contradictory. If we want the community to have faith in how we move, we need to listen. I don’t understand what the issue is,” Kim Smith said. “They’ve asked us to wait, I don’t understand the rush.”

“I will be voting no. I have a lot of unanswered questions. I believe this should be paused. I stand with the community. Please don’t give up,” Stanley Martin said. “We’re missing an opportunity to reconnect and have people at the table. I believe the conversation could continue even if we didn’t have this vote today.”

Michael Patterson, Willie Lightfoot, Jose Peo, Mitch Gruber, Lashay Harris, and Miguel Melendez were of those who voted in favor of Introductory 255.

“That forum was not done the best. We can do better. We have to do better getting out the info and making sure people are aware and getting different people in the room. We need a cross-section of people here speaking so we can hear a diverse view,” Willie Lightfoot said.

“I will be voting yes because it is an exploratory process. Governance, funding and developing a plan. This is a  perfect time for council to influence the direction of the BID,” Jose Peo said.

City Council President Miguel Melendez says the council will have the ultimate power to approve the business improvement district in the long run.

“This is to start a conversation. I feel strongly this council will not approve a plan that doesn’t include robust community engagement,” Miguel Melendez said. “You have to engage the people. You have to do it. If you don’t have a plan that includes the people, we aren’t voting for it.”

“The BID is a proposal to consider I don’t know where I am, I haven’t heard what they’re proposing,” Michael Patterson said. “No one is against vitality but we should know who will this BID benefit and who is making the decisions about spending the money.”

“There’s been a lot of frustration and more than anything there’s been a lot of distrust. I think the communication has been inadequate,” Mitch Gruber said. “I’m hopeful we’ll have a community-supported plan. It doesn’t go anywhere without trust. I’m ready to move forward with the planning process, we have plenty more leverage points.”

Those who asked to delay the vote last night say the council and those in charge of creating the BID have not listened to their initial concerns or answered questions posed by business owners who a BID would affect.

Tuesday’s vote allows the RDDC to move forward with creating its ‘district plan.’ RDDC CEO and President Galin Brooks says New York State law surrounding BID’s does not require the managing entity to get approval from local government (city council).

“[NYS’s BID laws] provides the opportunity for it [approval from council] to incur. And in this case, our commitment to transparency and accountability has led to the action of having a vote right at the outset of the process so that there’s that public awareness in a different way before anything even got started,” Galin said.

The RDDC has created a tentative timeline for community engagement and potential approval. They are seeking feedback and input at rddc@rddc.org.

A BID is not foreign to Rochester. A downtown BID was proposed back in 2011, and it was shot down. There is currently an existing BID for high falls.