A self-imposed downtown Petaluma business tax will continue after the Petaluma City Council voted unanimously this week to retain the 14-year-old levy.

The business improvement district ran into controversy late last year when the annual budget was set to be approved by the council in what is usually a routine procedure.

But several business operators raised concerns about how the tax proceeds, about $50,000 a year, are spent. They said they weren't consulted and the money wasn't improving the shopping district.

The Petaluma Downtown Association administers the annual proceeds, which come from about 600 businesses in the downtown core.

Since the merchants went public in December, they and members of the downtown association have met several times and ironed out many of the problems.

Additional committees on how the district is managed have been formed and more transparent decision-making procedures have been implemented.

The city also has agreed to use hotel-tax funds to provide additional sidewalk cleaning for downtown.

No businesses protested during Monday's council discussion of the matter. A written protest of owners who pay a majority of the fee would have been required for any changes to the budget or the tax district.

Holly Wick, the owner of a downtown athletic clothing store, said she is thankful the council got involved, but remains concerned whether Business Improvement District proceeds are allocated in ways that help retailers succeed.

The tax was enacted in 2000 when downtown business owners sought a way to raise funds for security, beautification and marketing.

[END_CREDIT_0]You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.