Councillor Sarah McBreairty, chair of the development, tourism and culture committee, explained that the program is one that has worked well in other municipalities.
“There’s something here for every business,” said McBreairty. “If you want to have something done, it’s designed so that it’s fair.”
McBreairty expects there to be an application process, with all interested businesses applying to be considered.
The program’s specifics have yet to be worked out but McBreairty noted that many municipalities have a cap.
Once approved, the business could make the eligible upgrades in exchange for a tax credit the following year.
Although McBreairty acknowledged the town would see its revenue affected, she said the costs are worth it.
“We’re not talking about significant amounts,” she said. “I think anyway you can beautify your town, and work with the business community, it can’t be a bad thing.”
The committee acknowledged in its report to council that some aspects of the program still need to be researched, but McBreairty said that the majority of eligible improvements would be to the façade of businesses.
She said that windows, brickwork, masonry and potentially signage and landscaping could all be included.
Furthermore, accessibility is another issue that the town would like to improve.
“I would like to see accessibility features added,” said McBreairty. “Say you needed to get up to code and put in a ramp, this could potentially be a way to do that.”
As a result of age, many of the older buildings in Town Square are exempt from having to meet the Buildings Accessibility Act.
Assuming that accessibility improvements make it into the program, businesses would have an incentive to upgrade.
“The models that I’ve looked at, those would be applicable for improvements,” said McBreairty.
All budgeting decisions for the proposed business improvement program will be decided after the municipal election.
Although the program wouldn’t be operational until 2018, many are encouraged by the town’s proposal.
Michelle Thoms recently shared her frustrations while trying to navigate Town Square in a wheelchair. She said that incentivizing businesses to add features such as automatic doors and ramps is a step in the right direction.
“It should have been done long ago but better late than never,” said Thoms. “I support anything that is going to help (accessibility).”
Jennifer Noseworthy, who works at Lucky 7 in Town Square, also thinks the tax credit is a good idea.
“It’s a good thing,” she said. “We’re renting from somebody but hopefully they’ll take up on it. If we owned the property, we certainly would. It needs it.”