By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Sept. 8, 2012
Kamloops offers a gradual ten-year break on taxes.
Campbell River offers a 100 per cent tax reduction on new multi-family or new commercial buildings in special areas.
Abbotsford and Chilliwack, too, offer similar exemptions for new improvements or alterations to existing buildings.
All share one goal: Revitalizing some part of their community by giving tax incentives.
Can Squamish launch programs with a similar bent? What kind of incentives can Squamish offer to bring a new energy into the downtown core?
These questions brought a diverse range of Squamish citizens to the municipal hall at the economic development committee meeting on Tuesday, Sept 4.
Developers, relators, councilors, and other engaged citizens debated the issue, as consultants from City Space Consulting gave a presentation on the options before the council.
The council also passed a motion to bring a RTE (Revitalization Tax Exemption) bylaw to a future council meeting.
Not surprisingly, the top issues were jobs, development and revitalization in the downtown, a mix of housing and commercial, and transportation to Vancouver.
Michael Hutchison said the Oceanfront lands are a key to developing the downtown.
“If there is a university going somewhere in downtown, it’s not Cleveland Ave, it would be Oceanfront,” he said.
He also said it needs to be made clear the tax exemptions being offered wouldn’t be a direct benefit for the developer, but for the commercial tenant.
Realtor Darren McCartney said although downtown businesses were providing a great service, any revitalization effort for employment should be focused on high-tech, light industrial or manufacturing industry.
Mike Bosa from Solterra suggested the district could do a better job of cleaning the area around Loggers Lane.
“You can’t even see the marina when you are here,” he said.
He also said Squamish needs to focus on enhancing transportation options to Vancouver.
“Connectivity is a huge selling point,” he said.
There was a lack of consensus on the precise boundaries of downtown Squamish.
Coun. Ted Prior said revitalization shouldn’t be limited to just the downtown core, but should be extended to other parts of the town also.
Some, like Hutchinson, suggested the area along the Loggers Lane, near the adventure centre, should be included in the revitalization plan.
Eric Andersen said the BIA might have different view on downtown boundaries, although no BIA representative was present.
Tom Bruusgard, Kerry Brown, James Morris, David Rittberg, and Chris Pettingill were among those who attended the meeting.