The municipality has a new plan which hopes to encourage investment in North Grenville’s downtown core.
Starting in November, the Municipality of North Grenville initiated the process to create a Downtown Kemptville Community Action Plan (DKAP), to replace the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) with a more robust program to encourage development in downtown Kemptville. The CIP program was created in 2013 and covered only Rideau and Sanders Streets. The program gave out grants to eligible businesses and property owners for façade, landscaping, and signage upgrades. In 2017, the program was expanded to include Clothier and Prescott Street, and continued until 2019. According to staff, the program was underutilized, as not all the funds were distributed in 2018 or 2019. Other CIP programs, like the tax increment based incentive grant, a financial tax assistance program, and the residential intensification development charges exemption, were also underutilized.
In developing the new DKAP, municipal staff and an outside consultant considered a variety of background material, and also consulted directly with community stakeholders, such as the Old Town Kemptville BIA, mayor and council, and developers. The two key themes that arose from these consultations were connectivity and people. “There was a desire to better connect downtown’s assets, and a need to have more people living in the core,” Hillary Geneau, Strategic Initiatives Coordinator for the municipality, told council.
The new DKAP is focused on the vision that downtown Kemptville is a vibrant gathering point that connects residents and visitors with unique experiences and amenities. With this vision in mind, staff came up with three goals to frame the plan: incentivising desired investment through financial tools, establishing flexible planning for creative development, and updating practices to align resources and priorities.
Financial programs suggested in the draft DKAP include a development charges waiver (which is already in place until 2023); a tax increment equivalent residential grant, which provides the grant equivalent for the municipal portion of property tax for new residential development; a People Make the Place grant, which would provide a $5,000 grant per residential unit created in multi-residential builds; a building fees grant, which covers 50% of the cost, up to $2,500, for building fees; and a façade and signage grant which covers 50% of the cost, up to $10,000, for high quality improvements to the frontage of commercial spaces. Staff will be bringing a more detailed financial report back to council. However, they are estimating a cost of $125,000 annually to fund these programs.
In terms of planning tools, staff are suggesting the implementation of a Community Planning Permit System (CPPS). According to the Government of Ontario website, a CPPS is a land use planning tool that can help make the development approval process more streamlined and efficient, get housing to market quicker, support local priorities (ex. community building) and create certainty and transparency for the community, landowners, and developers
“The unique parcel fabrics and building configurations that have developed over the long history of downtown Kemptville do not lend themselves well to a one size fits all approach,” Hillary said. “A CPPS regulates the form, scale, and character of development, and allows investors to tailor unique solutions to the unique issues of particular pieces of land, and consolidates all planning and development building permit applications into one single, shorter process.”
Other planning tools include a cash-in-lieu of parking bylaw, conducting a parking study, and investigating further parking leases with private property owners. It also suggests building on the work done during the COVID-19 pandemic to encourage businesses and property owners to establish patios along the downtown streets.
The DKAP also outlines putting processes in place to help to make investment in the downtown easier for investors. This includes having a single point of contact, providing top of the pile service, and reconfiguring the development review process. To make sure the Old Town Kemptville BIA can support growth, the plan also encourages that municipality support them in expanding their footprint to cover Rideau and Sanders Streets.
The DKAP is set to take shape from February, 2021 to December, 2024, with a pause for review in January, 2023. Deputy Mayor Jim McManaman felt DKAP, as presented by Hillary, looked extremely encouraging. “I know, a few months back, I felt that we needed a more robust CIP for the downtown to make stuff happen, because what we’ve done in the past really hasn’t done anything,” he said.
Councillor John Barclay, who is the former Executive Director of the BIA, agreed with the Deputy Mayor, saying that many of the elements outlined in the draft proposal are elements that they are looking for. “I think we finally have a plan that has real teeth,” he said.
The DKAP will now be posted on the website for public review and comment. In order to implement the CPPS, there will need to be an official plan amendment, which will include more public engagement and consultation. A revised plan, taking into consideration council and public comment, will be coming back to council at a future meeting.
Hilary Thomson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Grenville Times