City staff will be given carte blanche to help advance Trail’s downtown revitalization vision, cutting municipal politicians out of the process.
City council gave third reading to a Downtown Revitalization Tax Exemption Bylaw that will not only exempt both land and building improvements from further taxation, but streamline the process for those who undertake the work.
Although it now awaits adoption, the new bylaw will make the renovation and construction process as it relates to the downtown—identified as the Gulch, East Trail and downtown commercial areas—as timely as possible for private property owners, said city corporate administrator Michelle MacIsaac.
“Not only (will this occur) on the building permitting side, but on the agreements that are necessary as part of this revitalization exemption bylaw. Those authorities will be dealt with by city staff, rather than having to bring back any ancillary agreement to council for review and approval,” she said.
“As long as everything is fully compliant with the bylaw, then staff has the authority to enter into any necessary agreement.”
For building permit fees for eligible properties there will be a 50 per cent reduction, and any permits would also become priority processing at City Hall. Council decided last week that both land and building value increases would be tax exempt “to be most competitive.” It was to be of greatest advantage to developers of new construction, said MacIsaac, that the bylaw would also exempt any increases in land values.
“We are moving absolutely in the right direction,” said city councillor Kevin Jolly, the former chair of the Downtown Action and Planning Committee, who helped create the city’s Downtown Action Plan.
City staff has had discussion with regional building department on the matter of the process and have received approval to fast track the permits.
The building permit fee amendment was given third reading as well by city council and awaits final approval Feb. 12.
The rest of the legal bricks for the foundation of a revitalized downtown Trail are nearly in place and await adoption as law. Mortar is drying on third reading of the tax exemption bylaw to exempt downtown business owners who endeavour to improve the look of their structures from paying more taxes.
The idea of the bylaw is to encourage re-investment by the private property owners in their properties in the downtown, said Jolly.
Once it is adopted in fourth reading, the bylaw would allow tax exemptions from 100 per cent in the first six years, and progressively smaller breaks over the years until full taxation is implemented in the 11th year.
Mayor Dieter Bogs said tax increases following improvements to a building were often a deterrent for many owners in the past.
The exemption would be solely for renovations exceeding $10,000. The exemption would exclude single or two-family dwellings.
The bylaw includes a 10-year tax exemption plan, a critical part of the bylaw, said Jolly.