Meeting Tuesday night, councillors got an update from Stantec senior planner Nancy Reid, who explained the firm has done preliminary community consultations and a needs assessment.
Some of the plan’s objectives are to improve existing buildings, properties and businesses, address vacancies and incompatible uses, promote new commercial/mixed-use development, encourage new forms of housing, improve design characteristics, promote heritage, improve trails, open space, linkages, and enhance parking, accessibility and the pedestrian experience.
The CIP has been in progress since the fall of 2016.
They’ve outlined two different options for community improvement project areas. The first option is to designate the core areas of Wellesley and St. Clements as well as surrounding lands that provide a significant social, cultural or economic function.
The second option is to prioritize Wellesley and St. Clements, but once those goals are being met to expand CIP programs into the rural settlement areas.
“The most important part of a community improvement plan though is section four, it’s the financial incentive programs. Really there’s no point in preparing a community improvement plan without this exciting and important section.”
Under the Municipal Act, municipalities are not allowed to provide grants, loans or any kind of financial incentive to a business owner.
“However in section 28 of the Planning Act it specifically says if a municipality or township prepares a community improvement plan then that rule is no longer and through the community improvement plan the township can provide grants and loans to a business owner.”
There are a variety of financial incentive programs which provide grants for things like building improvements and improving building accessibility, among others related to community improvement.
Reid provided nine different financial incentive programs, but notes the Façade, Signage, and Property Improvement Grant is the most bang for your buck. The township also would not have to include them all at once. Rather, they would create an implementation plan and decide which grants to put into effect on a yearly basis.
An implementation committee will be created made up of township staff to implement the plan, and Reid says the success of the CIP depends on who’s championing it.
“One sign might not make much of a difference, but it has a snowball effect.And when you’re looking at a downtown area and you’re investing $8,000 here and $5,000 here, you start to have an impact of several landowners improving the façade or the sign on their building, it really has a physical impact on your downtown area.”
The next steps are to consult with stakeholders on the community improvement project area options, identify the recommended options, present those recommendations to council, prepare a draft CIP, hold an open house, circulate it to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, hold a statutory public meeting and have the plan adopted by council.