UPDATE: About 50 people attended the meeting on Tuesday night to hear about the BIA proposal, ask questions and share concerns. The steering committee plans to keep educating the local business community on what the proposal is all about, and there’s a survey on the City’s web site for local business owners to complete.
Local businesses are being encouraged to attend an information meeting on Tuesday, July 18 to hear about plans to create a Business Improvement Area (BIA) for Stittsville. The meeting happens at 7pm at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex, Hall A.
A group of around half a dozen local business owners have formed a steering committee to drum up interest and support in the plan. (The group includes a variety of owners and management from Walkerworks Framing, Jo-Jo’s Pizza, Huntington Properties, Stittsville IDA, Covered Bridge Brewing, and Warmstone Dentistry.)
From the group’s Facebook page: “Stittsville is such a dynamic community with incredible opportunity. The growth we’ve experienced and will continue to experience at an increasingly rapid pace needs direction. The Stittsville BIA proposal is here to exhibit the power of BIAs and how we can help unlock untapped potential for all Stittsville business owners. We need to support each other and our businesses through an organized effort. Shop the Stittsville is movement. Come enjoy some pizza courtesy of Jo-Jo’s and voice your opinion – it matters!”
They’ve set out a few objectives for a potential BIA in Stittsville, including encouraging a “shop local” strategy, increasing business-to-business purchasing, marketing initiatives, and creating a “unified business voice” on municipal issues.
BIAs are typically made up of property owners and business owners who promote economic development and physical improvements to the business area. They’re funded via a levy on commercial property taxes, and managed by a volunteer board of directors. From a governance perspective they’re considered a local board of management under the City of Ottawa, but their activities and budget are controlled by the local businesses, not the City of Ottawa. There are over 300 BIAs in Ontario and 18 in Ottawa.
The steering committee is proposing an annual operating budget of $125,000 to be funded through the levy. For example, A property valued at $500,000, would pay $269.53 per year. The BIA area would encompass most of the commercial areas in Stittsville, including Stittsville Main Street, Hazeldean Road, Carp Road, Iber Road and part of Sweetnam Drive.
BIAs also get access to additional city funds for things like market research, graffiti removal and other civic improvement programs.
This isn’t the first time a BIA has been proposed for Stittsville, and in the past that levy has been a sore spot for some owners in the business community, even if it’s only a few hundred dollars. Based on feedback I’ve received from a couple of local business reps, they’re going to need a lot of convincing to get on board with the plan.
One of the issues I see is the heterogeneity between the different business areas. Hazeldean is mostly big box commercial; Stittsville Main has lots of small businesses and a heritage character; Iber Road is more industrial. Agreeing on common goals and how to spend the small budget to benefit everyone could be a challenge.
From strictly a resident’s perspective, a BIA would likely be a benefit. How about some beautification (flowers, banners, street furniture) along Stittsville Main? Or increased special event programming? Or what if the BIA could attract more businesses and jobs to the area?
But ultimately it’s up to businesses, not residents to decide. Based on the feedback from Tuesday’s meeting, the steering committee will work with the City of Ottawa’s economic development office to finalize the proposed boundaries and property tax levies. If there’s enough support, the next steps after that would include:
- The committee will create a proposed by-law to be passed by City Council to formally establish the BIA.
- Notices are sent to all property owners in the proposed zone.
- Property owner must send a copy of the notice to tenants within 30 days
- There’s a 60 day period for property owners and tenants to file a notice objection
- The by-law can’t be approved if: “a petition is received representing one-third of the total # of businesses entitled to receive notice and also representing one-third of the business assessment base, objecting to the by-law”.
Here’s more background about BIAs in Ontario: