Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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February 10, 2013

Heritage District and tax, mulled

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The blue-ribbon committee overseeing Flight of Five canal locks restoration has proposed creation of a business improvement taxing district to support locks operations and maintenance.

The Lockport Locks Heritage District Committee gave a proposal to the Common Council last week for creating an entity to manage publicly owned attractions and amenities along or near the Erie Canal in the city.

According to the proposal, the Locks Heritage District Corporation could be established to manage the district and improvements including the restored locks, the proposed Lockport Harbor Marine Center and signs and interpretive exhibits throughout, such as the planned gateway entrances and exhibits on Canal Street.

The corporation could apply for grants, seek donations and, if the Council approved creation of a special district, levy a tax on properties within the Locks Heritage District, to support non-income-generating items such as the locks and signage.

The corporation could also raise money for LHD maintenance if it’s given rights to license attractions and concessions throughout the district, and collect vendor fees from special events and the Labatt Canal Concert Series, the proposal shows.

The Locks Heritage District would consist roughly of one to three city blocks northwest and southeast of the canal throughout the city. It would include all of the downtown business district, and commercial, industrial and residential properties in closest proximity to the canal.

Lockport has never had a business improvement district, City Attorney John Ottaviano said. The idea was batted around briefly with reconstruction of Main Street in 2005, as leaders contemplated how to pay for maintenance of new landscaping and streetscaping. In the end, the costs have been absorbed in the city’s general fund, into which all city property owners pay.

The LHD proposal comes about as the city is entering into an agreement with the state Canal Corporation to have old Locks 69 and 70 restored to working condition. The city will be responsible for operation and maintenance costs, which the Heritage District Committee estimated will be $100,000 a year. 

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