KENILWORTH – On May 13 Bill Nelson updated members of council on the Mount Forest BIA.
He said he was mainly there to answer council questions.
“The BIA has been a longstanding organization for the municipality of Mount Forest and we have some new councillors who may or may not be as familiar with the BIA’s operation or its scope,” he said.
Nelson provided a brief overview of what the BIA was involved with in the past and in the future.
He said many people get confused between BIAs and Chambers of Commerce.
Nelson added there is also a downtown revitalization program underway.
He suggested there is some overlap because there are so many different programs.
“The BIA of course, is under the jurisdiction of council – as an independent committee,” he said.
Building owners are charged a levy which is used to improve the streetscape in downtown Mount Forest.
Nelson noted membership on the BIA is currently a bit low, having lost some of its long-term members.
“We are trying to rebuild and get a few more people involved,” he said adding that the BIA was founded to improve the downtown core of Mount Forest.
Nelson said, “the original streetscape plan has yet to be fully completed.”
The BIA is also responsible for the installation of Christmas decorations, winter decorations and a tree planting program “which has varying success since its initiation,” he said.
Part of the success is because of the differences of urban versus rural environments.
“We’ve conceded nature has won and as trees die off, we are replacing them with planters,” he said, adding there has been positive feedback on the planter replacements.
Nelson said people were initially hesitant – thinking the planters would be used as garbage receptacles.
“But we’ve been pleasantly surprised, that has not been the case,” he said.
Nelson said overall there has been very little vandalism.
He said that work is being done with the downtown revitalization committee to deal with some of the other issues – such as attracting more businesses downtown.
Nelson noted “the BIA mandate is not-so-much attracting new businesses as maintaining the physical structures downtown.”
He appreciated Wellington North’s initiating its Community Improvement Program (CIP) as he noted a number of local businesses have used the share-costing program to improve business facades.
“It’s been a great incentive for a lot of businesses and it has really improved the downtown look,” he said, adding, one of the concerns are discussions in other municipalities that building owners may be charged for vacant properties.
“I think that is up for a bit of debate as there are two sides to the story,” he said.
There are those who believed landlords do not want to have people in the building.
“Landlords do want buldings occupied,” he said.
Nelson felt any plan which would penalize building owners for having vacant properties “is not particularly constructive.”
He said that he and property owners in Mount Forest would rather see a program initiated to help fill those buildings with tennants who would in turn be good corporate citizens.
He reiterated that while the BIA remains independant, it does report to council.
Nelson said there are projects the BIA wants to embark upon from new Christmas lighting to additional streetlights.
“We do appreciate the support we recieve from council and the township in general,” he said.
Nelson stated there is tremendous cooperation from all the municipal departments.
“It is the partnerships which have helped make Wellington North look as good as it does,” he said. “We like to think we played a cooperative role in that.”
Mayor Andy Lennox agreed there is considerable confusion as to who does what and who has what role to play (regarding the business community and the downtown area).
“I am sure you have some wisdom to share,” he said.
Lennox said he appreciated the efforts of the BIA to help make a better community. “That is what we are aiming for,” he said.
Lennox appreciated the update from the BIA “because we have not had a lot of updates.”
Nelson added. “communication is such an important thing.”