TERRACE city councillor James Cordeiro presses the switch to light up the large tree at the corner of Lakelse and Emerson last year at the Festival of Lights

Business group aims to clear up taxation plan confusion

The Terrace Area Improvement Association wants to double budget, increase services

THE TERRACE Downtown Improvement Association (TDIA) is hosting a meeting tomorrow to better explain its plan to increase property taxes within the downtown core beginning next year so that it can double its annual budget to $120,000.

The current $60,000 budget comes via a specific property levy contained within a city bylaw that was good for five years but which now ends Dec. 31.

But TDIA chair Sasa Loggin says there’s been miscommunication between it and downtown core property owners about the plan to pass a new bylaw to increase the levy and extend the association’s taxation boundaries to finance spending plans for another five years.

Opposition and questions about the proposed new bylaw began several weeks ago when property owners began receiving letters from the city informing them that if they didn’t want it to pass, they would have to register objections within a set time period.

That caught the association off guard, said Loggin, as when it first approached council in October to ask for a new bylaw, it thought there would be a 30-day public consultation period for information to be distributed and comment gathered.

Instead, council gave the bylaw three readings, starting a process which resulted in it sending out the letters.

“We should have asked more questions,” Loggin said about the process for its proposed bylaw. “We didn’t mean to blindside anyone.”

Loggin said she understands the frustration and anger of property owners.

“If we can channel it into a positive plan, that’s great,” she said.

The proposed bylaw is being handled through what’s called an alternate approval process requiring at least 50 per cent of the property owners to register their objections for the bylaw to fail.

Property owners who don’t respond are considered to have given their approval of the new bylaw.

The bylaw notice letters were sent out Nov. 17, setting the clock running on a 30-day response requirement which would end Dec. 17. City council is then scheduled on Jan. 7, 2017 to consider whether or not to adopt it.

Downtown property owner Kelly Gingles represented business interests at city council’s Nov. 28 meeting, saying there was unhappiness about the lack of communication between the improvement association and affected property owners.

By the time downtown businesses were brought up to speed, council had already given the bylaw for the five-year plan three readings, said Gingles.

And while the bylaw language indicated there would be an improvement and association taxation area expansion, details were lacking, he added.

Gingles said business owners were not trying to condemn TDIA and that business and property owners appreciated its work in the last five years.

Gingles also presented a letter containing reasons for objection to the bylaw. It was received for information with no further action taken.

Loggin said the increase to $120,000, which would raise individual property levies by nearly 90 per cent, was suggested so the association can convert its coordinator’s position from part-time to full-time, allowing the association to expand its work.

As for the boundary extension, the proposal is to expand eastward from the downtown core to the Chances Gaming Centre area.

Formed in 2012, the improvement association focuses on beautification, infrastructure, events, marketing, and networking as well as safety and support.

That has included things such as putting the hanging baskets in the downtown, a facade improvement program, downtown cleanup, advertising, and webinars.

The association is best known for two large events – a street fair during Riverboat Days and a downtown Christmas lights theme promotion which takes place this year on Dec. 10.

Tomorrow’s meeting takes place in a downstairs meeting room of city hall at 7 p.m.