On Tuesday, the Committee of the Whole met at Town Hall to continue discussing the priorities of the Revitalization Taxation exemption program.
The committee meeting is the initial step in the development of a tax exemption bylaw that would encourage various types of new developments to occur across Smithers’ environmental, economic, and social objectives.
Councillors in attendance discussed and focused on a social revitalization objective – revitalize the downtown core through a residential affordable housing project – however, structuring and approaching this as a priority remained unclear.
Resident, Mark Badstra believes that an opportunity for developers needs to be created first and that a tax incentive alone is not enough.
“Housing is a priority, but if you step back, I think the promotion of industry and business will create the need and wealth for more people to come, which would then create the business opportunities for other business to come, that is the top of the change”
Councillor Ray is unclear affordable housing is the right priority to be considered at this time.
“I’m certainly not opposed to revitalization exemption, but I am just unsure if this is the right one – I think we have other priorities that I would rather be working on. The Arts and Cultural Centre, definitely, I think that will be a lot of work for our staff and our staff is still working on the airport as well.”
Mayor Taylor Bachrach also admits that the discussion was challenging.
“So it’s a bit of a tricky balance and I think that’s why the discussion tonight was a bit of a challenging one for us. This is a tool that other communities have used to some effect and we give the example of Prince George, but it’s not something we have had in our community before, so we are talking about using a new tool to achieve some of the goals in our official community plan.”
The creation of a revitalization tax exemption bylaw is one of six recommendations presented by the Small Business Taskforce to council back in 2016. The task force was created by the town council as part of its corporate and strategic priorities for 2015-2018.
The next committee meeting is scheduled November 28th.