BRUCEDALE – Guelph-Eramosa is prepared to invest about $30,000 in a program of grants and incentives to help businesses make physical improvements that benefit the broader community.
A public meeting was held April 1 to explain the community improvement plan (CIP), though no business people or members of the public attended. The plan was originally drafted and sent to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for review last June.
Township council expects to approve the CIP at its next meeting.
Mayor Chris White said money is available in the 2019 budget, but council will have to approve the exact amount and choose which of several cost-sharing programs will initially be used.
“It requires private investment,” said White, who expects the focus in the first round will be aesthetic improvements to private business properties, such as façades, signage, and landscaping. Council can choose specific sites as priorities for revitalization.
“We’ll take a look at the tools that are available, and go for the low-hanging fruit,” he said. “As we go forward, the intention is to help the township across the board, but as much as possible we’d love to support our commercial. Downtown Rockwood needs some support. There may be some things we can do in agricultural and some farm gate.”
CAO Ian Roger said the first period for intake of applications is expected to be this August. Council can add money to the program and have additional intake periods, possibly for different types of improvements.
Projects approved in the township program are also eligible for additional funding through the Wellington County CIP program.
Also, businesses may be able to borrow for their share of a project with a low-interest loan from Wellington-Waterloo Community Futures, a non-profit agency funded by the federal government.
Stephanie Bergman, a planner from consulting firm Stantec, made a presentation at the April 1 meeting, noting there had been consultations earlier this year with community stakeholders.
She said the goal of a CIP is to “advance the restoration and beautification of built-up areas, to encourage a more diverse economic structure and create a prosperous, complete, and connected community.”
While business-led improvements are the main focus, CIP projects can include community facilities, streetscapes and public spaces, as well as gateway and wayfinding signage that would help promote Guelph-Eramosa’s brand and image.
Projects can potentially be in Rockwood, the hamlet areas of the township, prime agricultural lands and rural employment areas
The draft of the CIP can be viewed on the township website, www.get.on.ca, in the Doing Business Here section. Here are the six potential funding programs:
The design, study and application fee grant will cover 50 per cent of costs, up to $2,500, for various studies for a redevelopment project and the township fees for official plan and zoning changes and building permits.
The building and property improvement grant will cover 50% of costs, up to $7,500, for building and façade improvements or repairs, entrance modifications for accessibility, walkways and landscaping.
The affordable/rental housing grant will be $20 per square foot, to a maximum of $7,500, for the conversion of eligible building space to create new affordable/rental apartment units.
The commercial conversion and expansion grant is also $20 per square foot, to a maximum of $7,500, for small-scale conversion of existing vacant or under-used space to new commercial or mixed-use space.
Businesses can apply for more than one program, depending on which ones are in effect. But if they are approved for any of the first four programs listed, the combined value of the grants cannot exceed $10,000.
There is also a brownfield tax assistance grant, for lands that are contaminated in some way. The value of the grant is the cancellation of township property taxes during the rehabilitation of the land.
The final program is the tax increment equivalent grant, for business properties in a built-up areas or greenfield areas that undergo certain types of major improvement. If this results in an increase to the assessed value, and therefore an increase in property taxes, there can be a partial deferral of those higher taxes spread over five years.
The tax increment would be 100% rebated in the first year, with the rebate reduced by 20 per cent in each of the following four years.
For built-up areas, the improvements can include demolition, building rehabilitation, upgrading onsite water and sewer infrastructure and the addition of energy efficient features. For greenfield sites, only the energy efficiency features such as solar panels are included.