Revitalization bylaw may be renovated

Greenwood Council ponders the Revitalization Bylaw and city pays an $11,000 bill from their lawyer.

Greenwood council logo

Greenwood council was set to give final reading to their Revitalization Bylaw at their July 14, 2014 meeting but decided to send it back to staff for more information. In January council had directed staff to prepare the bylaw based on the model used by Vernon. To be eligible for the tax exemption the property owner would need to invest a minimum of $200,000 in the case of new building construction, $50,000 for additions to an existing building, or $25,000 if renovating (either interior or exterior) existing buildings.

The increase in property tax resulting from the improvements would be 100 per cent forgiven for the first five years following the improvements, the exemption falling to 80 per cent for year six , 60 per cent in year seven, then 40, 20 and finally in year ten only 10 per cent of the tax increase would be waived.

Revitalization tax bylaws typically cover commercial properties and are meant to encourage investment in the community. For this reason Mayor Nipper Kettle, who owns a commercial building, excused himself from council chambers during earlier discussions when the bylaw was given three readings. It was during those meetings that council decided the bylaw would apply specifically to any business with frontage along Hwy 3 within the city.

However Kettle stayed in the room during subsequent discussion of the bylaw during question period at both the June 23 and July 14 meetings.

During question period at the beginning of the meeting on Monday, July 14, 2014 resident Byron Goch suggested that council consider two amendments to the bylaw. The first would see it applied to any commercial property anywhere in the city and the second would see the city take out loans to invest in revitalization projects.

Goch called the bylaw as drafted a ‘very good starting place’, but he would like to see, “buy-in by local government that would develop a partnership for development – along with that some type of plan that would go along with the bylaw that would further enhance investment from outside of Greenwood.”

He suggested the loan from the city would be paid back with interest and the municipality would regain some of the tax revenue foregone with the revitalization bylaw.

“I don’t know if there is a question there, other than to table the bylaw,” said Kettle. “Communities handing out financial advantages – I think the city is limited as to what we can do in that respect.” He added that to date no one has come to the city with a public-private-partnership proposal.

Kettle was also concerned about the amount of staff time it would take to administer the program. When the issue came up at the end of the meeting the mayor again stayed in the room stating,

“I am only here because as the mayor I will end up signing the bylaw at the end of the day.”

He did express concern that the bylaw as drafted would only apply to commercial properties fronting on Hwy 3. “I had a little bit of concern about that one issue.”

Some confusion then ensued, as some council members realized for the first time that new construction would be eligible to apply for the exemption too. Their concern was that someone would develop an empty lot and no new revenue would flow to the municipality for five years.

Councillor Colleen Lang suggested the bylaw should be referred to the next meeting. Ashton agreed, saying that economic development initiatives allowed under the community charter need more research.

Council passed a motion referring it to the next meeting.

***

The city will renew their service agreement with the Board of Trade (BOT). The agreement sees the BOT receive $3,000 in exchange for providing certain services to the community. The request for funding from the BOT included the following list of activities on their planning board: participation with the Greenwood Economic Development Committee, annual Mother’s Day garage sale, Canada Day celebrations, Founder’s Day, a Halloween dance fundraiser, annual Christmas light up, Christmas basket program for business and to provide assistance for Winterfest celebrations.

Councillor Darla Ashton said she had heard comments from some Greenwood businesses questioning what the BOT does for businesses in town. She noted their mission statement is to promote and improve trade and commerce and the economic and civic social welfare of the district, but she said other than participation in the GEDC she hadn’t seen them moving in that direction.

Lang stated that at one time the BOT did more advertising than they currently do.

Council voted to sign the service agreement and to support the request for funding, but to set a meeting date in the fall with the BOT executive to discuss the BOT mandate.

***

Ashton took exception when Kettle reported he had been in discussion with organizers of the Grand Forks Food Bank to see if they would open their doors on Fridays – the day the bus runs from Greenwood.

“Our food bank is accessible anytime during the week,” said Ashton and the city should be looking after the needs of the residents themselves.

***

Under the budget and accounts section of the agenda a payment of $11,203.73 to Young Anderson Barristers was approved. “Legal costs” were given as the reason for the cheque.

Back in May when the budget for the year was being developed budget line items across the board were held steady or cut as much as possible, with one notable exception.

The amount set aside for legal fees increased from $3,653 to $20,000. When asked at the time why that item was going up so dramatically, Kettle replied, “That is something we can’t tell you about. It is a project that the city is working on.”

***

The back of the new signs at the north and south city entrances will read, “Thanks for visiting historic Greenwood.” Council voted a letter of thanks to Community Futures Boundary for providing $1,000 for the project.

***

During the last question and answer session for the meeting resident Byron Goch spoke in favour of approaching ICBC for cost sharing for permanent speed signs.

 

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