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Signs a priority as St. Jacobs BIA sets inaugural budget

Signs a priority as St. Jacobs BIA sets inaugural budget

New signs at the north and south entrances to the village are the first order of business as the newly minted St. Jacobs BIA tackles its first budget.

That project is expected to account for $35,000 of the downtown business group’s $40,000 budget, approved this week by Woolwich council.

“They’ll give a cohesive look and feel for the village,” said chair Edward Denyer of Eco-Coffee, noting signage is the focus of one of two BIA committees.

“They’ll be a little more oriented to what you can find in St. Jacobs today,” he added of the modernized entrance signs, which are at a stage where they need to be replaced.

The goal is “to present a refreshed image of the village for those who arrive at the main entrance points.”

In a presentation to councillors Tuesday night, made with treasurer Phil Hipkiss of Block Three Brewing, he noted one of the aims with signage is to create a sense of anticipation, so people feel like they want to explore more of what the village has to offer.

As a new organization representing downtown merchants, the St. Jacobs Business Improvement Area and its new executive have no shortage of ideas when it comes to allocating its annual budget, raised through a special levy on core-area businesses, said Denyer. Rather, the first issue was deciding where to begin.

New St. Jacobs BIA chair Edward Denyer, joined by treasurer Phil Hipkiss, took to the podium  at Woolwich council Tuesday night to give a presentation about the group’s 2016 budget.[Steve Kannon / The Observer]
New St. Jacobs BIA chair Edward Denyer, joined by treasurer Phil Hipkiss, took to the podium at Woolwich council Tuesday night to give a presentation about the group’s 2016 budget. [Steve Kannon / The Observer]

“The initial challenge of starting something is that you have to define a starting point. You can’t do it all at once – you actually have to pick something.”

While the diverse members each have their own ideas about goals for the BIA, the early goal has been to reach a consensus, to get everyone going in the same direction, he explained.

“It’s about defining what exactly we want to achieve. … Looking to encompass all the businesses’ wants and needs.”

Denyer notes the group is thrilled about the prospects for the new BIA, taking input from a mix of longstanding business and new arrivals in the village.

Coun. Mark Bauman, who serves as council’s representative on the board, said he’s excited about the ideas and energy being generated by the group. While the annual general meeting (AGM) held May 2 had a fairly light turnout, he’s seen that businesses are embracing the effort.

“With any BIA, or any new group, it’s always difficult to get people involved … but its picking up,” he said.

Two weeks after the AGM, the board approved the $40,000 budget, building in an annual inflationary increase of two per cent. Levies on businesses within the BIA catchment area were set at a minimum of $300 and a maximum of $3,000, again with inflationary increases of two per cent.

Woolwich director of finance Richard Petherick said Tuesday that, with the budget approved, the township will now have to amend its tax rate bylaw to reflect the special BIA levy.

In the near term, both the businesses and residents of St. Jacobs are dealing with the reconstruction of King Street, which has caused more than a few disruptions. The village is a tourism magnet, especially with the arrival of summery weather.

In an interview, Denyer said the construction hasn’t been as problematic as some people imagined. Short-term pain will bring improvements that everyone, businesses included, will benefit from.

“People will quickly forget when it’s finished what they went through to get there,” he said of the benefits once the work is completed. “It’s a matter of patience.”

Work on the first phase of the Region of Waterloo project, encompassing the downtown core, is almost complete. Focus will then shift to a portion of King Street at the south end of the village.

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