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'Sole voter' not alone: 13 more voters discovered in Business Loop CID

Image and Interactive Map by James Gordon; CID boundary from City of Columbia, Voter data from Boone County Clerk

Thirteen additional voters have turned up in the controversial Business Loop Community Improvement District, or CID, after an investigation by the KBIA newsroom.

The board of the Business Loop CID has been criticized for gerrymandering to exclude all voters. In doing so, property owners in the CID would legally be able to levy a sales tax increase of a half-cent without voter approval.

When one registered voter was discovered in the district, the board postponed an election on the tax hike. But after KBIA reviewed registered voter data from the Boone County clerk office, a total of 14 voters were found in the district, most living just inside the border.

Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren confirmed the oversight to KBIA after an inquiry Tuesday morning. She said the addresses provided to her by a CID representative didn’t match the addresses associated with the parcels of land in the district.

“The mix-up was the information provided to me was incorrect,” Noren said to KBIA. “The parcel is in the district. The address provided to me for that parcel was incorrect.”

The revenue from the tax would go toward beautification and safety improvements along the Business Loop that need updating. But members of the community who agree the Business Loop needs sprucing up, have criticized the district creators for not including the nearby residents in any planning for tax increases.

“Fundamentally unless you involve the public and the citizens, really what this amounts to is a way for private interests to have their hand in the public till,” Dan Cullimore, president of the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association said.

Jen Henderson, a college student, was the first to be identified as a registered voter in the district. She said she wanted to make sure the residents adjacent to the business loop’s shops, restaurants and grocery store had a voice in the decision.

Carrie Gartner, director of the district, said without the revenue from the sales tax increase, all of the beautification and safety improvements the Business Loop sorely needs can’t be made. The sales tax was expected to bring in more than $200,000 annually. The district currently is raising $50,000 a year from the property tax that property owners took on themselves in the CID.