Sechelt business owner Mike Evans appeared before Sechelt Council on April 5 to strongly protest the “petition against” method being used to approve the District of Sechelt’s Business Improvement Area (BIA) Bylaw.
The BIA bylaw is a tax levy that funds the Sechelt Downtown Business Association (SDBA). The SDBA organizes promotional activities to attract shoppers and represents downtown businesses to Council on issues affecting them.
Under the “petition against” process, owners of downtown business properties were mailed a notice of the proposed bylaw and given 30 days to file a petition if they oppose the proposal. The proposal will pass unless more than 50 per cent of owners file a petition against, and those who file own more than 50 per cent of the assessed value of all the commercial properties.
There are approximately 128 commercial properties within the BIA boundaries.
Evans, the owner of RE/MAX Oceanview and “a born and raised son of Sechelt” described the petition as “an awful way to go about something like this.”
“We need a better approach, a more democratic approach, and a less sneaky approach,” said Evans.
Evans said that downtown businesses are obviously struggling and the business owners he had spoken to are opposed to paying more taxes. Evans urged council: “This proposal is wrong and the method that you’re considering to pass it is wrong, and I urge you to take the high road.”
“Let’s get a 50 per cent approval to proceed, not a 50 per cent vote against to stop it.”
But Mayor Bruce Milne pointed out that the business improvement bylaw was driven by the business community, and is not a council initiative.
“What’s ironic is when the counter petition is sent out to people, asking them if they disapprove, we had a number of people responding immediately that it showed the council was trying to ‘deep six’ the project,” said Milne.
The petition against closed April 3. According to SDBA Administrator, Matt McLean, results are not expected to be tallied before April 13. The matter will be on Council’s April 19 meeting agenda.
McLean stated: “If the petition against fails, passing of the BIA levy will go to council for a final reading at their next meeting. If the petition against passes, we will not receive any funding for 2017, and the existence of the SDBA will be in question.”