City council is giving out grants to business groups around the community to help beautify four different areas of the city.
During budget planning in February, council chose to give $10,000 each to the Downtown Heart of the City Business Improvement Area Association (BIA), the Campbellton Neighbourhood Association, the Pier Street Association and the Willow Point Business Improvement Area Society.
At Monday night’s council meeting, City Clerk Peter Wipper said that in order for council to give out those grants, it has to be through a legal agreement which the Downtown BIA has agreed to.
“Although council is prohibited from providing assistance to business, it can however provide assistance through a partnering agreement if the funds are being used for beautification, public art and public amenities on public property,” Wipper said.
But Coun. Larry Samson said he doesn’t see the Downtown BIA as a business.
“I think one of the things I’m concerned about is under the Community Charter we require this of a business,” Samson said.
“I don’t consider the BIA a business. It represents the businesses downtown but all we’re asking them is to beautify the downtown in a way which they see fit and we approve of.”
Wipper said in order to do that, the legal way is through a partnering agreement which stipulates that any improvements must be done through an independent contractor or sub-contractors that are acceptable to the city.
But Samson said he thought it was all a bit much.
“While I respect staff and I thank them for trying to do their due diligence, I find we’re asking the Downtown BIA and other organizations to enter into a legal contract when all we’re trying to do is beautify our city,” Samson said.
“Asking them to sign and go through all of these hoops I think is unreasonable. We’re putting unnecessary conditions on this money.”
Wipper said he could assure council that city staff “got legal advice on how to do this in a legal manner” and the legal way to financially assist the groups in their beautification efforts is through the partnering agreement which will allow them to carry out work on city property.
Coun. Marlene Wright said she spoke to the Downtown BIA members and they’re receptive to the partnering agreement.
“They thought this was a good idea and the BIA was very much in support of it,” Wright said.
“They agreed they would come forward with their plan so we know how they plan to spend the money.”
Mayor Andy Adams, meanwhile, said while he supports giving the grants to the four groups, he would have liked to have seen more.
“I was sort of hoping, and this is just me, for a matching grant type of thing that would then maximize the ability to expand beautification in all four areas (downtown, Campbellton, Pier Street, and Willow Point),” Adams said.
“I was hoping to see a bit more leverage.”
Campbell River’s BIAs raise their own funds through a special tax that is levied against the property owners that fall within the BIA area.
BIA’s are typically formed out of a desire for a higher level of service in a specific area than what is provided to the rest of a community.