Council members review Community Improvement Plan at SPC meeting

·2 min read

By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Last Tuesday, Town Planner Mark Stone and Director of Building and Development Grant Brouwer presented an update on the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) to the Strategic Priorities Committee (SPC), which is made up of St. Marys Council members.

Under Section 106 of the Municipal Act, municipalities can't aid a manufacturing business or commercial project, directly or indirectly, through the granting of bonuses or total/partial exemption from levies, fees, or charges. However, under Section 28(7) of the Planning Act, an exemption states that to carry out a municipality's Community Improvement Plan, the municipality may make grants or loans to owners or tenants.

Because of this, St. Marys Council directed Town staff to draft a CIP update. Existing CIPs would be consolidated into one document and modifications would be made to continue developing the downtown by supporting local start-ups and expansion of existing businesses, attract new businesses, and promote the filling of vacancies downtown. This would also explore options to enable the Town to sell serviced land at below-market value. Additionally, the revamped CIP would open the door for new incentives to encourage and support the development of attainable housing, one of the Council's top priorities recently.

Each program was analyzed by Town staff and broken down into high-, medium-, and low-priority sections. Some of the most noteworthy high-priority proposed incentive programs include the Commercial Conversion Expansion Grant (CCE Grant), Downtown Rental Housing Grant (DRH Grant), Accessory Dwelling Unit Grant (ADU Grant), and Planning Application and Building Permit Fee Rebate Grant (PABPFR Grant).

Beginning with the CCE Grant, this would offer up to $8,000 per project per year for small-scale conversions of vacant or underutilized space into new commercial or mixed-use space. Next, with the DRH Grant, up to $5,000 per unit would be available to help create new residential rental units and improve existing units in the upper stories of commercial buildings. Third, the ADU Grant would offer up to $10,000 per unit to help create new residential rental units outside of the Downtown in existing single-detached, semi-detached, and townhouse dwellings. Lastly, the PABPFR Grant would reduce the cost of improvements by offering up to $5,000 for any required planning application or building permit fees. A full chart of all potential high-, medium-, and low-priority incentives analyzed can be found on pages six and seven of the SPC agenda, available through the Council and Committee calendar at the Town's website.

Based on the presentation, the SPC recommended that Council direct Town staff to circulate the draft CIP to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for review, and to initiate the required public meeting upon receipt of comments from the Ministry.

Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent