To change the tax breaks, or not to change the tax breaks, that is the question.
As a means of enticing growth and investment in the city, officials recently took a look at the various tax incentives including residential and commercial spaces. This information was shared with the mayor and council at this week’s regular meeting, and a lengthy discussion was held about possible options for updating them.
The commercial tax incentive bylaw, which currently only applies to the downtown area, grants a three-year rebate on the municipal portion of taxes and is based on the increased assessment value from either a renovation or new construction. The rebate amount is 100 per cent in the first year, 75 in the second, and 50 in the third.
The residential bylaw currently applies only when an older house is demolished and replaced with a new one, and is tiered in the same three-year manner as the commercial bylaw. Its purpose is to encourage infill residential development rather than expansion of new subdivisions, which require substantially more infrastructure investment.
In studying other municipalities’ incentive plans, city administration found a great number did not offer a break in residential areas.
“North Battleford repealed their residential incentive policy in 2013 on the basis that it did not have any measurable impact on the rate of development,” their report stated.
The question whether or not long-standing vacant or never-developed lots should be included came up, and council also discussed whether the commercial incentive should extend past the boundary of the downtown core. Renovations to existing houses in mature neighbourhoods were also brought up for discussion.
Mayor Gary Vidal posed several questions to council about their ideas on the issue.
“This idea of commercial development in our downtown district, is this still a priority?” the mayor asked. “Should it be expanded, reduced, or removed? What’s your sense of this? Is there some minimum improvement that should be required?”
Coun. Conrad Read said he thinks it’s important, as many other municipalities work to encourage investment in their downtown areas. Coun. Tom Harrison said there should be a dollar amount threshold minimum.
City administration will research the matters and take suggestions into consideration. Council is expected to make final decisions in the coming months.
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