Council keys into incentives

Penticton council is in the zone — for economic development, that is.

  • Oct. 13, 2011 1:00 p.m.

Penticton council is in the zone — for economic development, that is.

Council passed three readings of an economic investment bylaw that sets out not only which areas of Penticton it would like to see revitalized but also what types of business it would like to attract to the area.

Anthony Haddad, the city’s director of development services, said staff has developed the new bylaw with more “robust and targeted incentives” to businesses that meet specific requirements.

With the focus on luring in “key tenants”, or predetermined types of businesses, the city will provide a larger incentive for certain “magnet” or “anchor” developments according to the area.

For example, in the downtown economic investment zone, key tenants that would be eligible include a grocery store, theatre, cultural facilities, new residences above existing commercial space, high-tech services, live-work units and tourist accommodations. There are limitations to those key tenants: Only one grocery store and one theatre would be eligible for incentives.

For eligible key tenants, the city would offer a 100 per cent reduction in building permit fees, a three-year tax holiday on both land and new improvements and a further tax holiday of two years on new improvements. Key tenants are also afforded an additional year to complete eligible projects.

Penticton adopted its first incarnation of the bylaw last year.

“Since the bylaw’s adoption in 2010, six projects have been commenced which are eligible for incentives,” Haddad said, noting three fall within industrial designations, two were downtown and the final was a hotel renovation project.

The downtown economic investment zone is slated to expand to include medium- and high-density residential areas, because, as Haddad explained, they support the downtown. Some parts of downtown are also eligible for façade improvements valued at $50,000 or more.

Coun. Andrew Jakubeit said he hoped for innovation in the area of helping small businesses maintain storefronts.

“In terms of façade improvements, are there any other innovative incentives we can offer to help businesses do modest or minimal improvements downtown?” he asked, noting it can be difficult for small operations to drum up that much capital. “I have a small business that doesn’t have $50,000 to spend, but I might be able to do something else, something smaller.”

Haddad said the economic investment zones typically focus on bigger investments and expenditures, although staff could investigate the potential for smaller programs separate from the bylaw.

Waterfront development is also an area of interest for the city. A small waterfront zone has been created to spur development along key areas of Okanagan Lake. It will be seeking four key tenants, including marinas, cultural facilities and tourist accommodations of 20 units or more that are rated three stars or better.

A new technical-educational economic investment zone is proposed for the area surrounding Okanagan College, which includes the Canwood and Canadian Tire sites. The hotel-motel economic zone will become the tourism and culture economic investment zone, and lines up better with the city’s Official Community Plan. Industrial areas along the Channel Parkway may also be incorporated into the industrial economic investment zone.

There are also provisions for ineligible tenants in the downtown economic investments. In the downtown, tenants that are “not critical to economic growth,” Haddad said, will not qualify for incentives. Those include businesses of which there is an abundance or they don’t yield a substantial tax return to the city.

Council unanimously passed three readings of the economic investment zone bylaw, and a public hearing is scheduled for Monday.