Officials with the Montrose Management District said they are in the process of gauging interest from the Montrose community in a potential comeback that could take place as soon as 2022. However, officials said they are working on plans and gathering public feedback in an effort to avoid the issues that led to the expiration of the district's service plan in 2018.
The district's board let its service plan expire amid legal battles over whether it had improperly assessed some property owners, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported. Then, two lawsuits aimed at shutting down the district were dismissed by a state judge in 2019 after a settlement was reached. By July 2020, board Vice Chair Steve Madden sent a letter to the Montrose Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, indicating interest in resuming services.
In a June 22 presentation to the Neartown Association, Madden, now board chair, said the board had been meeting the past few months to discuss what a possible comeback would look like. Any new service plan would focus primarily on cleanliness and safety and would be heavily informed by public feedback, he said.
Specific services would likely include graffiti abatement, street sweeping and security patrol in Montrose neighborhoods, services Madden said were provided in the previous service plan.
"Over the past couple of years since those services were ended, we've had a lot of dialogue with property owners across the Montrose area, and that dialogue has been centered around the effects of [the] discontinuation of those services," Madden said at the meeting. "We got together and decided that it's probably time to start looking at ways we can possibly begin a new service plan."
The district would also ideally work closely with the Montrose TIRZ to help identify improvements, Madden said. In a July 14 email statement, district spokesperson Alan Bernstein said the core job of management districts is to supplement the efforts of municipal governments on issues such as keeping the peace, stoking economic development, and removing graffiti and litter.
"With the support of the community’s residents and businesses, the Montrose Management District would be in a position to shoulder those essential responsibilities," Bernstein said.
The district's service area is bordered by Shepherd Drive on the west, Spur 527 and Taft Street on the east, West Dallas Street on the north and Hwy. 59 on the south. Management districts are funded by levying taxes, assessments or fees on commercial properties within their boundaries.
As of July 14, the board was continuing to gauge the area's support and priorities, particularly from the commercial property owners who would be assessed the fees that would fund projects, Bernstein said. Two key changes are in play if or when the district does reform: The annual assessment rate on commercial property would be lowered from $0.125 per $100 of valuation to $0.10 per $100 of valuation, and multifamily complexes of 25 units or fewer would be exempt from assessments, which Madden said was a key source of opposition to the district in its previous iteration.
In addition, high-rise buildings of more than four levels would be assessed based on the average value of only four levels, Bernstein said.
"Montrose is changing, as it always has. The Montrose Management District is poised to adapt to the changes," Bernstein said in a statement.
Participants in the Neartown meeting supported the revival of graffiti abatement while also calling on the board to issue a clear mission statement and goals outlining what its purpose would be. In addition to adopting a 15-year service plan, district officials also have to submit a slate of board members to Houston City Council for approval. Board members would consist largely of property owners or the representatives of property owners within the district, Madden said at the June meeting.