The Sechelt Downtown Business Association has received the green light from Sechelt Council to start the process to renew the municipality’s Business Improvement Area (BIA) for another five years.
At their regular meeting on Feb. 15, Council gave three readings to Bylaw 556 that would renew the BIA until 2021.
Business Improvement Areas are a local property tax levy used to fund services. Sechelt’s BIA tax funds the Sechelt Downtown Business Association (SDBA), which organizes promotional activities to attract shoppers to the downtown. The SDBA also represents downtown merchants to Council on issues affecting them, such as parking.
The previous BIA bylaw charged a flat parcel tax of $525 per business property, but the new bylaw sets the rates according to the number of businesses operating on each property. Owners of commercial buildings containing several stores or offices would now pay more than a building with only one store.
A property with one licenced business would pay $440.50. Properties containing two to five businesses would pay $374.43 per business licence, those with six to 10 businesses $330.38 per business, and 11 or more $264.30 per business (60 per cent of the fee for one business licence). Residential properties are not charged.
“I’m really glad to see the BIA trying to find a way to resolve the difference between single business and congregate business,” said Mayor Bruce Milne.
Only small changes were proposed to the previous BIA boundaries. The BIA area includes the downtown shopping district along Cowrie, Teredo and Wharf. A few properties were added at either end of Wharf, including 5477 Wharf, and the east side of Wharf between Dolphin and Trident Avenue.
Councilor Darnelda Siegers stated that she did not support the map as presented. “I would like to see the boundary expanded to include the area that is currently under development because we’re looking at a five-year time frame for this,” said Siegers.
“When they [the SDBA] do their advertising they’re supporting the whole downtown so I would like to see us extend these boundaries to take in those areas that in our OCP and zoning bylaw actually reflect the BIA area.”
Milne disagreed, noting that the map reflected “businesses who are in the downtown area who are willing to participate in the improvement area.”
“The BIA has tried to get the largest number of supporters they can in the best configuration and fiddling with it from our point of view might not be in their best interests,” said Milne.
Other councilors agreed with Milne. Councilor Alice Lutes noted that the proposed bylaw was brought forward by the SDBA. “I trust that they have done the work that’s necessary and I will support the recommendation,” said Lutes.
All owners of business properties within the BIA boundary will be mailed a petition. Business owners who oppose the tax can fill in the petition and return it within 30 days. The tax will not be levied if the owners of more than half of the affected properties oppose it.