A petition-against process will be the litmus test to determine whether downtown property owners want a new business improvement association and the tax levy that would come along with it.
Nanaimo city council, at a meeting Monday, voted to instruct staff to distribute the paperwork to downtown property owners to decide on the formation of the new business improvement association.
Downtown property and business owners will be engaged through a petition-against process, which means the BIA will be approved unless owners of at least 50 per cent of properties in the area, representing at least 50 per cent of the assessed value of land and improvements, sign a petition to register their opposition to a new BIA.
Aside from assistance by the city to initiate and administer the petition process, no grants or other financial commitments will be made by the city and the BIA will operate autonomously for its five-year term.
Although council voted unanimously to start the petition-against process, there was discussion around whether the process is democratic.
Coun. Sheryl Armstrong expressed concern that a petition-against could give too much weight to a few highest-value-property owners who might oppose the BIA and potentially have enough clout to prevent it from starting operations.
“I’ve actually heard from business people that they don’t like the petition-against because they don’t think it’s a fair system,” Armstrong said.
About 138 businesses fall within the new BIA’s district boundaries. Kim Smythe, Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce CEO, told council that about 100 businesses had been consulted with the majority in favour of a new BIA, but added that very few property owners who reside out of town have been consulted.
Coun. Zeni Maartman, supported the petition-against.
“This is the simplest, easiest and fastest way to proceed … and, to the best of my knowledge, in this city we have no problem in objecting to things, so I think if people don’t want it we will hear from them,” Maartman said.
Whether councillors agreed with the use of a petition-against process, they were in support of the formation of a new BIA.
“I firmly believe that if this community in the last couple of years had a business improvement association active in the downtown things would have been better, clearer messages would have been passed [and] things would have happened faster to assist the downtown through what has been most dreadful time it has faced in a very, very long time…” said Mayor Leonard Krog. “So this is a very positive step.”
The petition packages will be distributed Wednesday, March 3, and property owners will have until April 12 to submit their responses. City staff will report to council on the outcome of the petition on April 19.