Dimitri Fetokakis is expected to vote Thursday in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood to send new tax bills to his co-workers who are not subject to assessments from the local government district.
The owner of Nico Nico’s restaurant, a board member of the long-defunct and recently revived Montrose Management District, said he knew there would be some backlash. Legal challenges from affected businesses and petitions calling for the district’s repeal led to its blackout in the spring of 2018, and some of those same detractors later opposed its operation, one longtime business owner and Montrose resident said of the district. unnecessary and unwanted.
Fetokakis said he understands the reluctance to pay additional taxes to the governing district, a government agency originally created by the state of Texas intended to fill gaps in services provided by the city, but he also sees it as a worthwhile investment. The Township of Montrose plans to spend most of the tax revenue it collects on public safety and security measures, while focusing on economic development as well as maintenance and beautification in a popular and bustling part of town.
“I can relate to anyone who has a problem with this. I don’t want to pay any appraisal fees,” Fetokakis said. “We just want to take care of our neighborhood.”
Thursday’s district board meeting is open to the public and is scheduled for 2 p.m. at 9600 Long Point Rd. #250. In addition to the scheduled vote on setting the tax rate and schedule, levying annual assessments on property owners within the district’s boundaries and approving the service and assessment plan, district board members plan to consider nominations for four new board members. Funds remaining from 2018, including Fetokakis.
The Montrose Management District held its previous council meeting on December 14, the first time councilors met since March 22, 2018. That’s when the board voted, amid a years-long legal dispute between the district and a Montrose property owner. to dissolve the district in response to a petition to that effect, according to a copy of the meeting minutes obtained through a public records request.
At the time, the board vote was conditional, but the district did not dissolve, said Alan Bernstein, a spokesman for the governing district.
“The board said it would be released if and when the judge decides to revoke it,” Bernstein said. “That order was not given.”
Bernstein said the decision to reactivate was in response to a request from the administration of former Mayor Sylvester Turner, whose office said they wanted developers to restore services to the Montrose Management District and complete capital improvements that were partially undertaken by the city. Montrose Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ), another hyperlocal tax entity created by the city in 2015. Those developers include Skanska and The Hanover Company, Bernstein said.
Because the management district’s service plan has expired, Bernstein said it has to reach out to business owners to reactivate. More than 60 signatures have been gradually collected since 2018, Bernstein said, meeting the district’s legal requirements to reactivate.
But Daphne Scarbrough, a former city council candidate and owner of a Montrose metal fabrication business called The Brass Maiden, a longtime district opponent of the administration, questioned whether the organization was legitimately reformed and raised those concerns with the Houston City Council on Tuesday. He also said the constituency was “taxation without representation”.
“Something is rotten in Denmark,” said Scarbrough. “If they never broke up, why didn’t they just keep going after they told us they were going to break up in 2018? And where have they been all this time? Why are they doing it again now?”
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The Montrose Management District has been managed and operated since 2006 by Hawes Hill & Associates, a local consulting firm that has performed the same function for about 10 other management districts in the Houston area. He put together a lower assessment rate and some exemptions, including an amended service plan for businesses like Scarbrough that double as residential properties — single-family residences were exempted entirely as before.
The new tax rate proposed by the management district, which is bounded by West Dallas Street to the north, Interstate 69 to the south, South Shepherd Drive to the west and Texas Spur 527 to the east, is 9 cents per $100 of assessed value. , down from 12 cents previously. Scarbrough said assessed businesses will pay more than before because property values have increased significantly over the past few years.
Among other changes, multifamily apartment complexes with 25 or fewer units will be exempt from assessments, as will mixed-use properties where the business portion accounts for less than 60% of the total assessment. Mid- and high-rise buildings will have to pay assessments based on the value of the four levels of their structure.
The governing district has a projected budget of more than $2.1 million for the upcoming year and approximately $32.5 million over the next 15 years, with 60% of that revenue to be spent on public safety and security. The district also must pay a more than $500,000 legal settlement to 1620 Hawthorne Ltd., which sued it more than a decade ago, which Bernstein said will be paid in two installments over the next two years.
“I don’t think they have any purpose,” Scarbrough said. “Everything they do is replicative. We already pay property taxes. We already have police patrols. So when we talk to businesses, they have nothing to offer us.”
Niko Niko’s owner and district board member Fetokakis disagrees with this claim. He said other small business owners like him support the reactivation of the management district because they want to take advantage of services the city doesn’t always provide.
Given the history of the governing district, he also said he wants it to be transparent, fair and efficiently spent so he can regain public trust. Fetokakis said he wants the board to be representative of the diverse businesses in Montrose, adding that he nominated both a small business owner and a large business owner to be board members.
Any new board appointments must be subsequently approved by Mayor John Whitmire and the Houston City Council.
“Let’s get in there and see if we can do it right,” Fetokakis said. “It’s not easy, man. It looks easy, but when you have a lot of people against it, a lot of pushback, you have to consider those things.”