Board of Aldermen approve new advisory committee for New Bern’s Municipal Service District 

Downtown New Bern, NC
A new Municipal Service District Advisory Committee will make recommendations on potential projects within downtown New Bern’s MSD area.

The New Bern Board of Aldermen have voted to officially re-establish an advisory committee to oversee the city’s Municipal Service District, the downtown commercial and residential corridor that pays an additional tax for improvements to the area. 

The new Municipal Service District Advisory Committee will be responsible for vetting and making recommendations on potential projects within the downtown MSD that would be funded with MSD tax revenue. Those recommendations will then be brought before the Board of Aldermen for consideration and final approval. 

An original MSD Advisory Committee was approved by the Board of Aldermen in 1985 for the purpose of making recommendations to the city concerning the revitalization of the central business district. The board has been in discussions about the creation of a new MSD Advisory Committee since August, when city staff were directed to make changes to a proposed resolution for the formation of the MSD Advisory Committee. The changes increase the number of ex-officio members to provide for an at-large appointment from the Board of Aldermen and sets a limit of two successive terms for residential members and commercial members representing the same commercial interest. 

The resolution was also revised to specify that the Board can replace any voting member who does not attend three of the four quarterly meetings or who no longer owns real property or resides within the MSD.

The new MSD Advisory Committee will be made up of 10 voting members that will include six commercial members, four residential members and five non-voting ex-officio members.

Commercial members

-Large commercial representative (Real property tax value of $2 million or more) 

-Hospitality representative (Hotel/bed and breakfast) 

-Restaurant representative 

-Retail establishment representative 

-Entertainment/nightlife representative 

-Professional services representative (Legal, banking, insurance, dental, etc.) 

Residential members

Each of the four residential representatives must maintain their primary residence in a residential dwelling located within the Municipal Service District. 

Ex Officio Members

-Ward 1 Aldermen

-At-large appointment from the Board of Aldermen

-City Manager

-Finance Director

-Swiss Bear Executive Director 

Established in 1978, New Bern’s Municipal Service District encompasses most of the city’s downtown, running from the north side of Broad Street to the west side of Hancock Street and to the edge of the Neuse and Trent rivers. The area is made up of approximately 30% residential and 70% commercial properties.

In addition to city and county property taxes, property owners within the MSD agreed to have an additional tax imposed on them that would go toward improvements in the area. While the MSD also encompasses nonprofit and government organizations, those entities do not contribute to the MSD tax. 

According to City Manager Foster Hughes, the MSD tax brings in an average of $195,000 annually, with $1.6 million in MSD funds currently available for renovations and other projects downtown.

The city held public input meetings on May 25 and June 15 at New Bern City Hall to discuss potential interest in reviving the MSD committee, the structure of the committee, and potential projects. Hughes said letters were sent to all MSD property owners informing them of the application process and nine applications had been received as of September 26.

If enough applications come in by October 13, Hughes said, the goal is for the information to be forwarded to the Board to consider at either their October 24 or November 14 meeting.

By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments