A new downtown Nanaimo business improvement area is a step closer to becoming a reality.
Nanaimo city councillors voted unanimously at a finance and audit committee meeting Wednesday to recommend that council direct city staff to work with the recently formed Downtown Nanaimo Business Association to establish the the new downtown business improvement area.
The downtown business improvement area will be established for a term of five years starting in 2021 and with it a bylaw to establish a BIA levy that will appear on property tax notices for the bylaw’s five-year term.
Formation of a new business improvement association for downtown Nanaimo has been in the works since the fall of 2018 after the old Downtown Nanaimo Improvement District Association was disbanded in 2017.
The new BIA must first survive a ‘petition-against’ process that requires the owners of more than 50 per cent of downtown commercial and industrial property parcels representing at least 50 per cent of the assessed value of land and improvements in the BIA boundaries to sign a petition in opposition to the local area service tax to defeat it, according to city documents.
Councillors followed staff’s recommendation of a petition-against process rather than a petition-for process because it stands a better chance of success.
“The importance again of a negative vote … is that a lot of the commercial property owners in the downtown area are not local residents of Nanaimo,” said Coun. Jim Turley. “They are out of town and historically … generally it’s not worth their while to respond because any increase in the cost of their property is always passed along to the tenants anyway, so it’s really not an issue for them and the advantage of having a negative vote is that if, on a positive one, if 50 per cent of property owners don’t vote it’s defeated.”
The BIA petition process will be administered by the city for a fee.
The Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce will provide bookkeeping services by the hour for the new BIA and offer meeting spaces and infrastructure to eliminate costs for staffing, equipment, furnishing and office equipment.
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said he was disappointed to see the dissolution of the original Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association and is “delighted” to see the formation of a new one.
“I can say, somewhat critically, I can only try and imagine how much easier it would have been to deal with COVID and to deal the increase in the homelessness population and the mental health and addictions crisis that fills our street, if this had never disappeared several years ago and think this is a timely reminder of why it’s important for communities and neighbourhoods to organize and the benefit that flows from that when they can speak with one voice, so I’m delighted to see this happening,” Krog said.