BIA expansion, fee increase coming?

Faced with perennial funding shortfalls, Erin Village BIA officials have proposed expanding the area and increasing member levies.

Business Improvement Area chairman Shelley Foord told council recently the original Business Improvement Area bylaw was passed in the early 1980s, including the maxi­mum $400 annual levy for affected commercial properties.

“The numbers are antiquated and not reflecting current values,” Foord said.

The BIA hopes increased levies and an expanded area will help increase its annual bud­get from $16,000 to $50,000.

“Our intention is to be as inclusionary as possible,” said vice-chairman Jo Fillery. She explained the BIA, currently including only Main Street businesses, would expand to in­clude all commercial businesses “within the sightlines of Main Street.”

More specifically, that will include the current area, the highway commercial zone, residential transition zone, and the industrial zone within the village. The BIA levy will be based on a percentage of each property’s assessed value, in­cluding:

– 0.4% for those in the current area, from a minimum of $400 to a maximum of $1,000);

– 0.2% for those within the highway commercial and residential transition zones, from $250 to $700; and

– 0.1% for industrial businesses, from $125 to $350).

Fillery said currently a small minority of BIA businesses do the bulk of the area’s work, and hanging baskets and other items are confined to a two-block area. The idea, she added, is to expand the BIA’s work and even hire someone part time “to take some of the pressure off some overworked and underpaid volunteers.”

The BIA wants to institute the changes for 2010, but Fil­lery said if one third of current and new members reject the idea, the bylaw would not go forward. But if the bylaw is not defeated all the proposed members would be forced to join and pay the levy.

“We’re looking at this as being a new BIA,” Fillery said.

Mayor Rod Finnie asked if the BIA has talked to any of the businesses that will become part of the expanded area. Fillery said yes, and they seem to indicate they want a stronger base of commercial business in the village.

Foord added they do not anticipate proposed members re­jecting the idea. Most businesses she has talked to realize the price may go up, but they realize it is for the best, she said. Council agreed to give staff direction to proceed with the BIA proposal.

“Staff will continue to work with the BIA to address the next issues on the list,” said Finnie.