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Ohio Special Improvement Districts: Collaborating for Better Communities

Brent Thomas

March 20, 2019


A SID is an economic development tool that allows private property owners in a self-defined area to establish a program for services or improvements aimed at the economic enhancement of the area. The area can be any size, as long as it is contiguous.


The SID enables a community, neighborhood, or business district to tax itself for specific improvements and services. Property owners can pay for the program with assessments on all properties in the given area.


The concept originated in the 1970s and are also known as Business Improvement Districts, Special Services Areas, and Community Improvement Districts. SIDs are governed by private, nonprofit corporations created by the private property owners. The board that runs the corporation is made up of the property owners as well.


Since their inception, many studies have been conducted on SIDs, by both nonprofit and academic organizations. These studies show that SIDs increase tourism, increase quality of life for residents, reduce crime, and raise property values within their designated areas.


SIDs create sustainable funding streams for the community and allows property owners to dictate how funding is spent on a yearly basis. SIDs improve cleanliness and safety and allow organizations to be nimble and put resources to work where they are needed most. With no additional financial burden to local governments, SIDs can capture the energy of motivated property owners wanting to improve their community and can provide at-large benefits to everyone involved in the community,


To create a SID, private property owners must make a petition to their City Council who will in turn create the SID.


To pass in Ohio, the petition must include signatures from owners that represent at least 60% of the front footage along all public streets of the given district, OR owners representing 75% of the land area. After meeting this criteria, the petition must be approved by City Council.


At that point, all eligible property owners will be assessed and provided improvement services. The only exemptions from SID assessments are government-owned properties and churches. These properties can however, contribute voluntarily.



The property owners that make up the board of trustees are in complete control of decisions made about the SID. They guide the implementation of a plan for public services and improvements that benefit the SID, which is typically submitted with the petition to create the SID. The plan may describe how the SID will hire employees and professional services, contract for insurance, and purchase or lease office space and office equipment.


The improvements and public services described in the plan may range from lighting, signage, and parking lots, to capital improvements, landscaping, and snow removal. Other potential services include communication with local police, graffiti removal, homeless outreach case workers, litter removal, safety vigilance, special duty police, sidewalk sweeping, and visitor ambassadors.


In Ohio, a SID is required to hold both a meeting and an election every year. Additionally, written reports must be provided to member property owners annually. After 10 years, a SID is automatically terminated. In order for a SID to continue, property owners must repeat the process of circulating and signing another petition.



Currently, there are over 1,000 SIDs in the United States. 23 of which exist in Ohio, a state relatively new to the game. With that said, only 2 SIDs in the state have chosen not to reauthorize their organization at the end of their Plan for Services. This shows just how valuable property owners throughout the state are finding their SID. Of the 23 SIDs in Ohio, 6 are found in Columbus: Capital Crossroads, Discovery District, Morse Road, University District, Short North, and East Main Street.


Interested in establishing your own special improvement district? Contact for additional information and to learn more about how a SID can benefit your community.