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Woolwich to query business owners about formation of BIA in St. Jacobs

Owners of business properties in St. Jacobs will receive notices next month as Woolwich looks to establish a BIA (business improvement area) in the village.

The move comes at the request of a group of business owners looking to establish a formal organization that would look after common interests such as beautification, signage and marketing. The group is looking at an initial budget of $40,000 a year, to be funded by a special levy on business properties in the village, as is the case with the BIA in Elmira. Estimates put the cost at $0.90 to $1 per $1,000 of assessed value. A property assessed at $800,000, for example, would pay an estimated $695 a year.

Meeting Tuesday night, Woolwich councillors endorsed a plan to make a formal bid to create a BIA in St. Jacobs. The registered letters to be sent out in April are the next step that began with the formation of a steering committee in the fall of 2013.

Once in receipt of the letters outlining the proposal, property owners will have 60 days to respond in writing. If one-third of owners representing a third of the assessed value object, the project would die. Otherwise, the township would go ahead with the formation of the BIA, currently penciled in for August.

Marcus Shantz, president of Mercedes Corp. and a member of the steering committee, told councillors the response at public meetings and in conversation with business owners has been positive thus far. The committee has been actively reaching out to the community, he added.

“I think we’ve tried to be very democratic and very responsive … in terms of moving this along,” said Shantz.

In response to a question from Coun. Larry Shantz, he estimated the number of businesses in the catchment area in the range of 75 to 100, noting so far the group has received 25 positive responses and no negative ones.

Craig Miller, owner of Xclusive Elements and a member of the committee, said a BIA would provide a common front for businesses in St. Jacobs, which haven’t done much collaborating over the years.

A BIA would allow for beautification efforts, new signage (entrance signs to the village would be a priority for the new group), joint marketing and networking, he explained.

“As independent business owners, we’d have a say in shaping our own future in St. Jacobs.”

The timing would be a bonus, as the Region of Waterloo plans to begin a full reconstruction of King Street next year, posing a real challenge – “that scares me.”

The proposed catchment area for BIA membership excludes the farmers’ market and the Home Hardware head office on Henry Street, but includes the company’s properties downtown.

The market is something of an entity unto itself, with its own branding, said Miller, noting the goal of the BIA will be to “promote the village itself.”

If ultimately approved, the special levy would apply to all business properties within the BIA’s geographic area.

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