Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) on Thursday said he planned to veto a bill the council passed this week creating a business improvement district in downtown Silver Spring, saying the measure did not give small, minority-owned businesses enough of a say.

Council President Tom Hucker (D-District 5), who co-sponsored the bill along with council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large), said he would have to consult his colleagues on whether to override the veto. The council passed the bill with a 7-to-1 vote. It would take seven votes to override Elrich’s move.

The bill, passed Tuesday, grants businesses in Silver Spring the ability to form a nonprofit business improvement district (BID), led by a board of property owners, with the power to tax members for services such as marketing.

Hucker, who represents the area, said the BID would allow businesses in downtown Silver Spring to better compete with other downtown areas and would help them bounce back from the losses experienced during the coronavirus pandemic.

But critics of the bill, including council member Will Jawando (D-At Large), who voted against it, had expressed concern that the board would be dominated by large property owners, shutting smaller businesses out of decisions such as how much in taxes to levy on district members. Elrich said he planned to veto.

“There’s no harm in waiting … let’s take the time to do this right,” Elrich said of the legislation. “The idea … that now that Silver Spring is getting hip and big that now we need a different type of business leadership … [and] putting White, wealthy business owners in charge of investment and being able to tax people for decisions they won’t make is beyond me.”

Hucker said the measure was a way to address concerns of those in Silver Spring.

“Year after year, Silver Spring community members have asked the County Executive to focus attention, staff and resources to address the growing challenges we face: widespread job loss, increasing residents facing homelessness, rising crime, decreased safety, lack of street maintenance and cleanliness, rising mental health concerns,” he said in a statement Thursday. “The County Executive would be far better off responding to these long-standing requests for attention then denying we have a problem.”

Downtown Silver Spring has seen growth in the past 20 years, with the onset of larger offices and new retailers. However, Hucker noted that the community has been losing ground on those gains in the last few years because of the growth of competing neighbors in the region and the coronavirus pandemic.

But business owners in Fenton Village were not as optimistic about the legislation. Jason Miskiri, owner of Society and Angry Jerk in Fenton Village, said he was afraid of being blindsided by decisions made by the BID.

“We’re very concerned. We’re scared because we’ve sacrificed so much and we know what this BID could do,” Miskiri said. “We need to put something together, structurally, that involves everyone.”

Under the legislation, the county’s urban district — which maintains the streetscape, public amenities such as plantings and seating, investments, and community programming — would continue to operate but give private property owners on the BID board the authority to control marketing and promotion.

Hucker said businesses do not need to pay fees to be represented by the BID and would benefit from the group’s marketing efforts.

The board would be composed of nine business owners — three who own properties worth more than $20 million and two who own properties worth under $20 million, one business with more than 50 employees, and three businesses with 50 or fewer employees. The original bill was amended to include business owners in Fenton Village, 80 percent of whom are people of color.

Jawando, said he was concerned about racial equity and other impacts, arguing that only the largest property owners will have a say in how the board operates because they have more votes. He added that the taxes raised could negatively impact people without significant power in the BID, including owners of small properties and their tenants if the costs are passed on to them.

“[BID supporters] were saying, ‘We were trying to get communities of color and business owners to be a part of the BID,’ and I wouldn’t want to be a part of it either if I don’t have a vote. I don’t want to be tokenized,” Jawando said at a Thursday news conference about the issue. “And that is what this is asking people to do.”

Jawando proposed creating an urban district corporation instead of a BID that would have more representation from business stakeholders.

Lene Tsegaye, who has owned Kefa Cafe with her sister since 1996, said she was appalled by the legislation and how the original bill omitted Fenton Village. Tsegaye was invited to join the BID board but declined the offer because she said the invite was only to fulfill a diversity requirement, instead of giving her a say in the organization.

“We have invested our time, money and soul in downtown Silver Spring. So why is this okay?” Tsegaye said.

Mike Gerecht, who owns several small office buildings in Silver Spring, said he supports business growth and protection but thought a BID was not the answer.

“We have one of the largest Ethiopian communities in the country. We don’t want to lose that,” Gerecht said.