“I don’t want to further subsidize these businesses through an increase in property taxes,” said Soniat Street resident George Chaney.
Advocates for a security district, led by Kellie Grengs and Michelle Ingram of Zeus’ Place (both known for their work with The New Freret business and property owners association), have said that their research shows a fee of $300 per parcel attached to property tax bills would pay for 24-hour coverage by a private security officer in the neighborhood from Claiborne Avenue to Danneel Street.
That $300, however, is only the upper limit of what they might want, they said Tuesday night before a crowd of more than 100 people. Less coverage may be needed, they said, and some of the money might be spent on more lighting and surveillance cameras in the neighborhood.
Opponents of the fee, led at the meeting by Stan Norwood of Dennis Barber Shop, said they already feel safe enough in their homes in the Freret area — safer, in fact, than they have felt in years. The fee represents an unfair burden when taxes and utility bills are already climbing, they said, and might lead to neighborhood children being hassled by security officers as perceived troublemakers. Ultimately, they said, the rising costs may force residents out of the neighborhood.
“We have to pay to become stereotyped and harassed,” Norwood said. “And that’s something that some of you may not have ever had to deal with.”
Norwood said that he has gathered 620 signatures on a petition against any security-district fee whatsoever, and that the neighborhood now needs to begin discussing alternatives to it.
No decision was reached Tuesday night, and advocates for the fee have said they plan to spend this year surveying the neighborhood and crafting a proposal based on the input they receive. But for several residents, the disagreement over the fee could ultimately lead to a stronger neighborhood as residents new and old get to know one another better.
“This us-against-them is not going to work. These people are not trying to impose anything on anybody,” said Dean Gancarz-Davies, a former president of the association, in defense of the district’s proponents. But urging opponents of the fee to remain involved, Gancarz-Davies concluded, “We need more soldiers in this organization. There is too much to do, and not enough people to do it.”
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