Woodstock in the coming year may introduce a municipal gas tax and reconsider a landlord registration program, which drew strong criticism when the idea was first floated two years ago.
Woodstock held its annual “State of the City” event Thursday, which included an address by Mayor Brian Sager. Sager touted new economic development endeavors and hinted at what could come in the next year, including the introduction of a business registration program, the reintroduction of a controversial landlord registration program and the possibility of a local gas tax.
Woodstock’s economic development team currently is working on more than 100 projects in various stage of progress – from inquiry to site selection to property acquisition and business development, Sager said.
“This is including things for new construction, relocation and existing business expansion,” Sager said. “I think that speaks well to [the team’s] outreach and professionalism, but also to the community at large. People are interested in coming to Woodstock.”
Sager said Woodstock’s No. 1 priority is its streets program.
Woodstock’s home rule sales tax revenue is dedicated to streets maintenance, but it’s not enough, Sager said. The city is considering issuing bonds to finance street improvements, he said.
‘We have to look at different alternatives for revenue,” he said. “You can’t cut your way out of the financial challenges we are facing.”
The city is considering a municipal motor fuel tax of about 3 cents a gallon to help fund street improvements, he said.
“We are having to look at those types of things if we want to address this significant issue and need within the community at large,” he said.
The city also is working on plans for three programs – a neighborhood improvement program, a business registration program and the landlord registration program.
The neighborhood improvement program could start on a pilot basis on Judd Street. The program would aim to help homeowners improve dilapidated properties in a specific neighborhood.
The city is considering offering grants or loans to homeowners for the project, but also is speaking with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity on how to collaborate on the program.
The business registration program would allow the city to better keep track of what kinds of businesses are in the city, Sager said. The landlord registration program also will be reconsidered, Sager said.
The city first tried to put a landlord registration program in place in 2017, tied to the push for crime-free housing. Landlords rallied against the idea, with public meetings overflowing into Woodstock High School after the council chambers hit capacity.
The 2017 program would have required landlords to register with the city. The city proposed fees and mandatory inspections of rental units, as well.
The city ultimately dropped the plan.
“I am not going to bring this forward on an agenda except for [as] a volunteer program during my tenure as mayor,” Sager said in 2017.
It’s not yet clear what the upcoming program would entail.