Seeking the MIDdle Ground

One of the first things a newcomer to the Town of Blythewood notices is the enormous potential for growth lurking just beneath the surface of this Edenic little community. Blythewood may be quite, but it certainly is not sleepy. But one man’s growth is another man’s sprawl, and how this potential is handled is the prevailing challenge facing the city fathers running Town Hall.

Growth is inevitable. When you’ve got a good thing, everyone wants in on it. The trick is planning for that growth and managing it, so that where people immigrate to doesn’t turn into exactly what they were emigrating from – traffic, congestion, crime, crumbling schools, urban blight, etc.

One tool for managing that growth and ensuring that the burgeoning Downtown Blythewood is an attractive and pleasant place to spend your time (and your dollars) is the proposed Municipal Improvement District (MID) plan currently being kicked around by Town Hall and the Planning Commission. It is an ambitious plan, but not overly so, containing $1.5 million in spending over the next three years to essentially streetscape Downtown into a more pedestrian friendly environment as part of the overall Master Plan. And if it works, and works well, the MID we see now will in the future be known as MID-1, with others to follow.

A million and a half dollars sounds like a lot of money, mainly because it is, but it pales in comparison to the $5.5 million already spent on the Town’s Doko Meadows Park and the additional $5.4 million it would take to finish the project. The burning question, in terms of the MID plan, is: Who pays and how much?

The first part of the answer is relatively simple: Businesses inside the designated District will foot the bill. The second part of the question is the part of the plan that remains blank. While the Town Administrator has said that a per-parcel assessment appears too arbitrary, other options (per street frontage, per acre, value added) will have to be hammered out in subcommittee. Only then will businesses have a better understanding of just how much they will be expected to contribute to Blythewood’s proposed facelift.

One potential sticking point: What if the businesses inside the proposed District say no thanks?

Technically, the Town could implement the MID with or without the blessings of the very benefactors of the plan. The affected businesses could appeal, but with very little chance of success.

Hopefully, as this visionary plan unfolds, at least a majority, if not everyone, will be on the same page.