Guelph-Eramosa contemplates community improvement plan

Guelph-Eramosa is currently developing a community improvement plan (CIP) officials hope will attract businesses to the township and help current businesses update buildings.

At the June 6 economic development committee meeting council approved a draft CIP to be sent to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for review.

“Having a CIP in place allows a local government to assist financially with improvements to private properties,” the township’s CIP document states. “This CIP will therefore allow the Township of Guelph-Eramosa to stimulate local investment through the financial incentive programs.”

The programs include:

– tax increment equivalent grant (TIEG);

– design, study and application fee grant;

– building and property improvement fund;

– affordable/rental housing grant;

– commercial conversion grant; and

– brownfield tax assistance grant.

“We’re doing a CIP … because the counties have passed them; it’s the way to move ahead for our downtown commercial restoration,” Mayor Chris White said. “This is a general kind of toolkit, completely separate from anything that’s before us today. It’s what you put in place to be able to move ahead.”

Without a CIP in Guelph-Eramosa, businesses and residents won’t be eligible for the Wellington County CIP.

The incentive that councillors were most concerned about was the TIEG.

“It’s … the big ticket grant and it’s meant to provide tax assistance … to major redevelopment here in the township,” explained Stantec senior planner Nancy Reid.

The TIEG program will allow eligible property owners to forgo paying a percentage of township tax increases due to improvement projects.

For a redevelopment or intensification project that satisfies the eligibility requirement for a TIEG, the approved applicant will, over a five-year period, receive:

– a 100 per cent grant for tax increase in the first year;

– 80% in year two;

– 60% in year three;

– 40% in year four; and

– 20% in year five.

For greenfield developments, the same grant increments would apply, but only on the portion of the tax increase applicable to “green” building features of the property, such as solar panels.

The township can also identify priority sites. These are sites within the CIP area that represent the township’s priorities for reshaping and revitalization and have been identified by council according to criteria.

Priority sites follow the same guidelines for redevelopment and greenfield sites, however the TIEG has higher incentives:

– 100% for the tax increase in the first and second year; and

– 80% for years three, four and five.

The problem, White says, is that the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) assessment value of the project won’t be determined until after the TIEG has been granted.

“I’m just trying to find out where the flexibility is here … until we know what we’re faced with and have an application, I’m a little bit wary to be absolutely locked into a number we may not agree on,” White said.

That’s why Reid included the priority and non-priority sites, so council could have two sets of incentives to choose from.

She also said council could amend the TIEG through a process that’s similar to making an official plan amendment, with 20 days notice and a public meeting.

The design, study and application fee grant helps business owners pay for preparations to look at the site-specific potential of an improvement project. Applicants are eligible to apply for a grant for 50% of the eligible costs, up to $2,500.

The building and property improvement grant supports aesthetic and functional improvements to private property required to meet current building code laws.

Applicants can apply for a grant for 50% of the eligible costs, up to $7,500.

In an effort to increase rental units and affordable housing the CIP will include an affordable rental and housing grant to assist in creating new residential units in Rockwood or improving existing upper level rental units.

The grant is valued at $20 per square foot, to a maximum of $7,500.

The commercial conversion and expansion grant helps eligible property owners with the small-scale conversion of existing vacant space into commercial, mixed-use or other space.

The grant is valued at $20 per square foot, to a maximum of $7,500.

The brownfield tax assistance grant will assist with eligible costs of environmental remediation and rehabilitation by cancelling all or part of the municipal and education taxes on the brownfield site during rehabilitation and development.

The township will determine the portion of tax cancellation upon approval.

“I think I’ve said this before, but it’s almost unfortunate that the CIP is set up this way because I’m 100% in favour of people saying ‘I want to make my buildings look bette … if you could help me out…’” said Woods.

“I think we should be doing that … But I’m 100% against the TIEG.”

White explained councillors don’t have to vote in favour of a TIEG if the situation arises.

“Passing this doesn’t approve anything, so if you don’t like the TIEG just vote that you don’t approve any TIEGs,” White said.

Reid also explained the township will be responsible for choosing which incentives are available which year.

“And we have the ability to turn away applications,” White said. “So if somebody brings in that they’re building a property and you put it into effect that year we can look at an application and say, ‘we’re not doing this.’

“Just because we made it available that year doesn’t mean everybody who applies gets it. Each application is based on its own merits and is voted on.”

The township has submitted the proposal to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for review.

Once returned, the township will incorporate the ministry’s comments, make a final draft available and hold a public meeting before the CIP is considered for approval by council.