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NO. M-7. AN ACT RELATING TO THE CHARTER OF THE TOWN OF ST. JOHNSBURY.

(H.531)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. APPROVAL OF CHARTER AMENDMENT

The charter of the Town of St. Johnsbury is amended as provided in this act. Proposals of amendment were approved by the voters on March 4, 1997.

Sec. 2. Subsection (e) of Section 2 of the Charter is added to read:

(e) A special district to be known as the St. Johnsbury Downtown Improvement District (district) is created. The district shall be that area consisting of properties with frontage on either side of Railroad Street from Cross Street to Maple Street and seven additional properties on Eastern Avenue and Pearl Street. The district is more precisely shown on the Plan "St. Johnsbury Downtown Improvement District, Revised January 3, 1997" and recorded with the town clerk in the town of St. Johnsbury.

(1) Commission-Creation; Membership: A St. Johnsbury Downtown Improvement District Commission (commission) is created consisting of seven members appointed by the selectboard. Five members shall be, at the time of appointment and during their terms, natural persons who are owners of property, managers, proprietors, operators, officers or directors of businesses located within the district who shall be appointed to serve for a term of five years and until their successors are appointed and qualified, except that the terms of the first five commissioners shall be from the date of appointment until one year, two years, three years, four years and five years after April 1, 1997 respectively. One member shall be a member at large who shall be, at the time of appointment and during his or her term, a legal resident of the town of St. Johnsbury, who shall be appointed to serve for the term of five years commencing the first day of April and until the member’s successor is appointed and qualified. One member shall be a selectboard member, or an employee of the town of St. Johnsbury, who shall be appointed to serve for a term of one year commencing the first day of April and until the member’s successor is appointed and qualified. The commission shall have a chair and vice-chair elected by the commission members. Any vacancy shall be filled by the appointing authority for the remainder of theunexpired term. Commissioners may be removed by unanimous vote of the selectboard.

(2) Purposes and Powers: The commission is created for the general purpose of maintaining and improving the economic, cultural and environmental vitality and quality of the town of St. Johnsbury and, in particular, the district created by this subsection; to promote the town and the district as a regional retail, commercial and service center; and to serve as an advocate for orderly development of the district in order to encourage expansion of the retail, commercial and service base of the district and the town by attracting new business and investment.

The rights, powers and duties of the commission acting on its own authority or acting through the town of St. Johnsbury selectboard, as set forth in this section, shall be broadly construed to accomplish the purposes set forth within the district and shall include the following:

(A) to prepare a budget (the "budget") for the district in accordance with subdivision (1) of this subsection;

(B) to advertise and promote the district;

(C) to represent the interests of the district;

(D) to hire and remove personnel as provided for in the budget or as otherwise approved by the selectboard;

(E) to apply for available governmental grants in aid and economic and in kind incentives when approved by the selectboard;

(F) to receive and expend contributions, grants and income;

(G) to apply for an allocation of the state’s private activity bond volume cap under Section 141 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, when approved by the selectboard;

(H) to expend funds as provided for in the budget or as otherwise approved by the selectboard;

(I) to manage and maintain public spaces and to assume or supplement the services and maintenance heretofore provided the district by the town as recommended to and approved by the selectboard;

(J) to acquire and dispose of property as recommended to and approved by the selectboard;

(K) to install and make public improvements as recommended to and approved by the selectboard;

(L) to cooperate with the town in the use, management and improvement of public parking facilities and to undertake such management or improvements and to regulate vehicular traffic within the district as recommended by the selectboard;

(M) to enter into contracts;

(N) to regulate, lease, license, establish rules and fees and otherwise manage the use of public spaces within the district;

(O) to plan for the orderly development of the district in cooperation with the town planning commission and as recommended to and approved by the selectboard;

(P) to do all other things necessary or convenient to carry out the purposes of this subsection except that the commission may not assume authority over any subject matter or activity under the jurisdiction of another town official, department or board as of the effective date of this subsection or contrary to any order or ordinance in effect as of such date other than to hire and remove personnel under contract or employed by the commission, unless and until the selectboard, by order, transfers such jurisdiction to the commission, notwithstanding section 8 of the charter, or amends the order or ordinance.

(3) Annual Budget: Annually the commission shall submit to the selectboard for approval for the next fiscal year a capital and operating budget of revenues and expenditures which shall be used exclusively to repay debt on capital improvements in the district and to defray the expenses incurred by the commission in connection with the operation, maintenance and repair of the district. In the event the selectboard does not approve the budget as submitted, the selectboard shall return the budget forthwith to the commission with its recommendations for the commission’s reconsideration. Appropriations other than from contributions, grants and income for the commission shall be raised through common area fees which shall be assessed and collected as tax on property as provided for in this subsection. The commission may, upon adoption of theannual budget and upon approval of the selectboard, borrow money in anticipation of common area fees.

(4) Common Area Fees:

(A) Common area fees are charges levied upon the owners of taxable properties located in the district, excepting such portions of properties used for owner occupied residential purposes.

(B) The district shall have the authority to assess common area fees for taxable real estate in the district based upon one of the following assessment methods:

(i) A flat fee per taxable parcel identifiable on the grand list.

(ii) A flat fee per taxable parcel plus a formula based on any one, or combination thereof, of square footages of commercial space, number of apartments, square footage of lot size, linear footage of frontage, number of parking spaces provided, number of parking spaces that would be needed to conform to the town’s existing zoning by-laws for new construction, or any equation which raises fees adequate to meet an annual commission budget with a method that reasonably apportions costs to property owners in relation to the benefit that accrues to them.

The commission shall only raise common area fees sufficient to meet the budget regardless of the assessment method.

The common area fees shall be established by the commission upon approval of the commission budget by the selectboard and shall be assessed annually by the selectboard to be collected at the same time and in the same manner as the town votes to have its taxes collected, and such common area assessment shall be a lien thereon with the same priority as taxes lawfully assessed thereon.

(C) Consistent with the charter for the town of St. Johnsbury, and the laws of the United States and of this state, the commission, with the approval of the selectboard, may substitute any local option taxes permitted by law in lieu of common area fees that exist to meet the budget.

(D) Appeals:

Persons aggrieved by any decision of the commission involving the assessmentor levy of common area fees may appeal the decision to the selectboard by filing a written notice of appeal with the town clerk within 30 days of the date of such decision, and furnishing a copy of the notice of appeal to the commission. The selectboard shall set a date and place for a hearing on the appeal within 60 days of the filing of the notice of appeal. The selectboard shall give the appellant and the commission at least 15 days’ notice prior to the hearing date. Any person entitled to take an appeal may appear and be heard in person or be represented by agent or attorney at such hearing. Any hearing held under this subsection may be adjourned by the selectboard from time to time, provided, however, that the date and place of adjourned hearing shall be announced at that hearing or 15 days’ notice thereof is furnished to the appellant and the commission. The selectboard shall render its decision, which shall include findings of fact, within 45 days after completing the hearing, and shall within that period send the appellant, and the commission, by certified mail, a copy of the decision.

An aggrieved person may appeal a decision of the selectboard to the Caledonia County Superior Court. The appeal shall be taken in such manner as the supreme court may by rule provide for appeals from state agencies governed by sections 801 through 816 of Title 3, Vermont Statutes Annotated. Notice of appeal shall be sent by mail to the commission.

Approved: May 5, 1997