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Downtown tax district advances

Evanston's downtown marketing group, EvMark, moved a step closer to doubling its budget Monday when the City Council completed a public hearing on an ordinance that would expand the size of the area taxed to fund its programs and extend the tax district's life for 12 years.

Evanston's downtown marketing group, EvMark, moved a step closer to doubling its budget Monday when the City Council completed a public hearing on an ordinance that would expand the size of the area taxed to fund its programs and extend the tax district's life for 12 years.

The end of the hearing sets the clock running on a 60-day window in which opponents of the tax district can try to collect petitions opposing it from at least half the registered voters and half the property owners in the district.

If that high petition signature level is reached, the City Council would be barred from approving the tax district.

Otherwise, it seems clear aldermen are inclined to vote for it.

Much opposition to the tax plan has drained away since the ordinance was revised so that residential property owners downtown will not have to pay the tax.

Some business owners, including Scott Steinman, of Studiomedia Recording Company at 1030 Davis St., still oppose the plan.

"I'd prefer to get the tax savings," he said at the hearing, "Downtown has reached critical mass and we don't see the need to go forward with EvMark."

But Chris Mailing, who owns Turin Bicycle across the street at 1027 Davis, said he believes the street-cleaning, downtown beautification and marketing services EvMark provides are a good investment.

He said EvMark has also helped him organize a bike race he's planning for downtown this summer and is working on a plan for next year to promote shopping by bike.

Travis Marlette, of The Things We Love at 614 Davis St., the chair of the Downtown Evanston Merchants Association, said he's been disappointed with EvMark's performance, but understands that with just two part-time staff members it's "seriously underfunded" and has been unable to do more.

He said he's confident that with additional resources it will be able to more to help merchants coordinate their marketing efforts.

Under the revised funding plan about three-fourths of the EvMark budget would come from the special tax district, with the rest provided by the city.

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