The Astoria Downtown Historic District Association sought a meeting of minds at an annual gathering Wednesday. Little consensus was gained on a course of action, except to avoid past mistakes.

Downtown businesses revolted last year when the association proposed an ordinance raising fees to support an economic improvement district. A petition circulated by Paul van der Veldt, representing about 40 percent of the 275 businesses licensed downtown, sidelined the ordinance. The association made no plans to take another stab Wednesday.

"Nobody wants to go through that process again and find we didn't hear and didn't listen enough," said Bill Lind, ADHDA president.

The ordinance would have supported a paid downtown manager to apply for grants that would assist struggling businesses, recruit complimentary businesses to fill empty buildings, lead seminars and facilitate other programs.

According to Lind, the ideas behind the ordinance could have been pitched better and the effort to reach enough business owners fell short.

"We failed to go door-to-door and meet face-to-face," he said. Relying on small group meetings, brochures and flyers, Lind said past efforts were not enough to draw adequate support for the ordinance. "We realize going to 240 doors was not enough," he said.

Debbie Shelton, owner of Jade River Acupuncture Clinic, said she was informed of the ordinance too late to properly think it over.

"It was so confusing," she said. "I had no choice but to say, 'wait a minute, slow down.'"

Shelton said the ADHDA could take a lesson from the petition circulators.

"(Van der Veldt) did a good job - he went everywhere," she said.

Lorna Anderson, owner of Rosemary Bakery, said the higher fees were not justified.

"There was no empirical evidence," she said. "The money (the association) proposed to raise was way out of proportion" to the costs of planned projects.

With a tight budget, Anderson said every dollar spent must have a worthwhile purpose.

"My rent's going up, my gas, my insurance, restaurant license fee, workman's comp ... we need to see something specific and empirical for our money," she said.

Lind said he hopes to boost communication between members to generate ideas that may lead to better funding and more ADHDA efforts to benefit downtown.

"We'd like to see more faces," said board president Bill Lind, owner of Still Images photography studio. "We feel isolated from a process that should include all of you."


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