The Watertown City Council met in regular session last night with Mayor Sara Caron noting that all ten members of the council were present, for the first time in recent memory. The main topic of discussion at the meeting centered around the re-institution of the urban renewal tax. The tax, if collected would only tax those lots and businesses which are in the specific business district as outlined in an Urban Renewal plan that was adopted by the city back in 1981. That plan outlines specific items that those tax dollars can be used for such as improving and increasing parking facilities, adding rest-room facilities, sheltered seating areas, beautification projects or as was discussed last night to build a park in the downtown area. The Council Chambers was packed full of uptown business owners and workers, each with their own idea of how the city should proceed or not proceed. Mayor Sara Caron opened the public hearing by inviting anyone who wished to speak on the issue to come forward.
Tyler Thuringer, representing Jeff and Annette Gamber of County Fair Foods spoke in support of the tax.
Speaking in opposition of the tax was Kay Solberg. Solberg says that she doesn’t feel that building owners who own buildings in the urban renewal district should have to pay an additional tax, a tax she says many of those property owners will struggle to pay.
Solberg says although she knows that new development in the uptown area is a good thing, she doesn’t feel that the business owners should be stuck paying the entire bill when others will benefit from it as well. She says this isn’t the first time she has sat in front of the council for this issue.
Mayor Caron corrected Solberg by saying there is a water project district that collects taxes similar to that of the Urban Renewal District.
Also speaking at last nights meeting was Jeff Geiser of Cliffords.
Nancy Turbak Berry who owns the old post office building located at 1st Avenue and South Broadway Street said that in order to make the downtown area more attractive and appealing, the community must come and work together to make this project succeed.
Chris Schilken the executive director of the Watertown Development Corporation said that he and his staff are working hard to develop the downtown area and revitalizing that area is key to the success of the city, especially for millennials looking to re-locate to Watertown.
Ward A Councilman Reid Holien also spoke on the issue.
After a lengthy discussion among city council members a motion was made by Ward C Councilman Michael Heuer to postpone the vote until the 1st meeting in October and no further action was taken on the issue.