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Public Mistrust Fuels Opposition to Special Tax District

Neighborhood Improvement Districts in Philadelphia are facing challenges from a skeptical public for the first time since their introduction over 20 years ago, Alex Vuocolo reports.
July 5, 2012, 7am PDT | Ryan Lue
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Historically, Neighborhood Improvement Districts (NIDs) have a strong track record in Philadelphia. In the 22 years since the designation was first introduced there, the districts – which levy additional property taxes within a defined area to fund improvements – have generally been well-received. 

But just within the last year, two proposals for NIDs have been beleaguered with objections in "heated public hearings and petitions." The problem, Vuocolo notes, is that the proposed NIDs encompass broad, nebulous areas that lack the cohesion of distinct neighborhoods – and thus, the commitment of residents to invest in the area as a whole.

The more recent of the two, dubbed the North Central Neighborhood Improvement District (NCNID), tested the already-strained relationship between Temple University and its neighbors. "According to Nick Pizzola of The Temple Area Property Associations, an NID is the best option to help clean up the area and fund increased security measures to deal with the ongoing tensions between longtime neighborhood residents and an ever-revolving crop of students," writes Vuocolo.

In light of these obstacles, Karen Fegely, Director of the city's Office of Neighborhood Economic Development, is preparing a "how-to" guide to ensure that NIDs are better-conceived and presented in the future. Elemental to the process, she points out, is transparency: "It comes down to communication."

Indeed, Pizzola says of NCNID, "There is a sense that that it was a backroom deal."

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Published on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 in Next American City
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