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CIP appeal approved by Centre Wellington councillors for $5,000 grant

Before and after

CIP appeal approved by Centre Wellington councillors for $5,000 grant

by Jaime Myslik

ELORA - Centre Wellington council has approved a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) appeal.

On Jan. 21 council learned that Geoff Ash of 431 St. Andrew St. West in Fergus appealed the township’s decision to decline his application for a façade, building and property improvement grant/loan under the CIP.

Ash made his initial application in January 2018, which fulfilled all the applicable incentive criteria including:

- a pre-consultation meeting with staff;

- two quotes for the work from a licensed contractor;

- ensuring no work began  until the funding was approved; and

- submission of invoices and proof of payment of the invoices.

The façade, building and property improvement grant/loan would provide Ash with $5,000 in grants and $5,000 in loans.

However, township staff asked him to make changes to the minimal setback and structural issues due to the materials chosen.

Ash resubmitted the application in April 2018. In June he submitted plans to the building department but had not yet secured two quotes. In August Ash indicated he was having difficulty getting two quotes.

In September he submitted the final cost estimates and scheduled a meeting to review his application.

“Staff were made aware at that meeting that the project had already commenced, thus making it ineligible for the incentive,” wrote Brett Salmon, managing director of planning and development, in his report to council.

“Mr. Ash indicated that he commenced the project as he was concerned about completing the project prior to winter 2018/19.”

The CIP application was refused.

Salmon said Ash indicated he wanted to come to council again, “So we realized there was an appeal process, so we advised him that we would write this report as if it was his appeal of our decision to refuse his application.”

Other than the work commencing before the application was complete, Salmon said staff was ready to support the project.

“So in this case it is up to council whether to approve this application,” Salmon said. “We do have adequate funding available and we’re anticipating that there will be additional funds going into our reserve in the 2019 budget.”

Mayor Kelly Linton said the project appears to be a good fit with the CIP, which is meant to improve downtown areas.

“It would be challenging for me not to reward this type of activity because that’s what this program is set up to provide incentives for,” he said.

Councillors Bob Foster, Neil Dunsmore and Steven VanLeeuwen all spoke in favour of approving the appeal.

“We have a program in place to incent a landowner in our downtowns to improve their façades,” Foster said.

“So the proponent in this case has acted in good faith, cooperated with us from January through August trying to do the right thing.”

Dunsmore said it’s council’s responsibility to look at these unique cases.

“From time to time we can rule that somebody’s done the effort waiting for contractors,” he said. “I’d hate to see if people have to change plans and not get things like this completed because simply we do not have enough contractors to fulfill them.”

VanLeeuwen agreed this exact process has occurred with other committees and other granting processes. Council makes the decisions in the case of odd situations.

Councillor Ian MacRae said his concern is there are rules in place and the CIP requires two quotations.

“We also have a number of business owners who are not able to participate in this program,” he said.  

“My challenge is saying let’s make an exception in this situation and then going back to all those other business owners and saying ‘yeah we decided to make an exception.’

“Out of respect for other people who cannot apply for this I have to say that I agree with what staff did in terms of saying ‘no, you can’t apply for this.’”

Councillor Stephen Kitras said two quotes aren’t enough; there should be a three-quote requirement.

“I’m a little bit concerned about ... giving money to already successful people,” Kitras said. “It’s like the Liberal government gifting $240 million to Toyota when they’re a profitable company.

“The CIP was initiated to develop our downtowns and make them look good.”

He added, “I’m a little bit concerned about giving monies when they haven’t fulfilled the criteria.”

However, Salmon said it was the two-quote requirement that’s the issue.

“We have heard repeatedly that given how busy our contractors are it’s very difficult to get the two quotes and it’s difficult to get someone to do a quote unless the person has a feeling that they’re likely to get hired so that is a challenge,” he said.

Salmon added other CIPs have more flexibility built in based on conversations with other economic development officers.

The Centre Wellington CIP will need to be reviewed to incorporate the new Wellington County CIP program, Salmon explained.

At that point changes and improvements will be considered for the Centre Wellington CIP as well.

The appeal for a façade, building and property grant/loan for 431 St. Andrew St. West in Fergus was approved by council, with Kitras and MacRae opposed.

February 8, 2019


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