City introduces new downtown property incentive program

By Angela Brown
June 27, 2017 - 2:07pm

The City of North Battleford proposed a new incentive policy to help improve the downtown area at its meeting Monday.

Through the policy, the city will provide tax-based incentives to property owners for projects accepted for the program. Both commercial and residential properties are considered.

N.B director of planning and development Jennifer Niesink discussed the city's new incentive program at council and said the aim of the policy is to encourage "revitalization and restoration."

Mayor Ryan Bater said the incentive program will complement the disincentive program, previously introduced at council.

"It is meant to encourage economic development in the city's downtown. There are a number of categories, including renovations, new builds, and brownfield (contaminated field) development," said Bater.

The incentive plan is divided into six different types of development or upgrade projects.

A few of the projects accepted for the plan include installing awnings, canopies, lighting and doors.

For the brownfield tax incentive, property owners can remove contaminated land for clean up and redevelopment. New construction on vacant property is also considered. For the building facade and site improvement incentive program, property owners can apply for a rebate of 25 per cent of the combined total costs of eligible facade or site improvements.

"The proposal is aggresive. It does offer tax incentives on the municipal portion of the propert tax," the mayor said. "Of course, the objective is to get a lot of these properties back into the market so they can be part of the local economy. So it's potentially an investment the city would make to get a lot of these older properties back into working order."

The City will accept Downtown North Battleford Revitalization Incentive Program applications for a 24-month period.

It will only grant one application per property for the 24-month period of the incentive policy.

Full details of the incentive program are available on the city's website.

Mayor Bater said it is timely the city is considering both the incentive and disincentive policies around the same time.

The mayor said while there has been some suggestion the incentive policy program needs to be extended beyond the downtown area of the city, administration and council prefer to focus on the downtown core at this time.

"Because most of the properties we are dealing with are unique — a lot of them are character properties — every property has a unique circumstance. Most of these will be dealt with on a case-by-case  basis. This is not meant to be a cookie cutter approach. The planning and development team within the city administration is willing to work with property owners on their plan," said Bater.

The incentive plan will focus on six different types of development or upgrade projects and addresses some recommendations from the Downtown Revitalization Action Plan.

Council will allow time for consultation and public feedback before voting on the program at its next meeting.

"Council was united in introducing the policy, and allowing some time for consultation with the public — just like we did with the disincentive policy," Mayor Bater said. "We introduced [the incentive policy] last night. It will come back to council at our July council meeting. This gives councillors time to consult with necessary groups, to get some feedback. We want to be open, transparent and accountable. We want to be consultative, and engaged with the public and necessary stakeholder groups. We are prepared to do that over the next month."    

Coun.  Kent Lindgren said the incentive program is "a great idea."

City manager Jim Puffalt said the city's strategy in revitalizing the downtown includes both for the disincentive program, to discourage property owners to let vacant buildings sit idle, and with this new incentive program to encourage property owners to make improvements.

"It's part of our overall plan; it's a big issue," Puffalt said at council. He added perceptions contribute to community safety also. An attractive, thriving downtown helps make the community better.

Puffalt said in his report the incentive plan "supports significant building upgrades and enhancements."

"This will also encourage property owners to bring vacant buildings brought back into production and support the Downtown Revitalization Program," he added. 

 

angela.brown@jpbg.ca

On Twitter: @battlefordsNOW

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