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Some residents see Bethlehem Community Benefit District as unnecessary

Thursday night there was a public hearing on the Bethlehem South Side Community Benefit District proposal and the special tax that it would impose on business and property owners. There is a proposition to a levy a $6.80 tax fee on every $1,000 of property assessed in the special community zone.

The money raised through this special tax would be used to pay for the community (downtown) ambassadors, trash pickup, weeding, graffiti removal and other beneficial services

The idea for a South Side Community Benefit District and special tax is supported by Lehigh University; they initially floated the idea about five years ago. The university has allotted $100,000 to the community fund and hired a group, Taggart Associates, to perform the planning.

Members of the opposition wonder if Community Benefit District is even necessary after Bethlehem was designated for a Community Revitalization and Improvement Zone (CRIZ). The CRIZ, in effect, does some of the same things, but over a wider area.

Some business and property owners in the community see the Community Benefit District and its tax, as Lehigh's plan to make the community pay for improvements and services that it should be performing itself.

Others view it as just another way for the city to tax the public, and wonder if that money might eventually be used for other things than what is deemed for the community's benefit.