BIA society to elect a new board

High hopes placed on new society for downtown commercial success

There will be elections among downtown Sidney business property owners to lead the new business improvement area (BIA) into what is hoped to be a more prosperous era.

Town council and the business community have a lot riding on the success of a BIA board to deliver effective marketing strategies to bolster the fortunes of commercial operations in the downtown core. That was evident Monday, March 11 as councillors ratified the recent results from the alternate approval process and voted to establish a BIA bylaw that will impose an annual levy on those business properties. In their discussions on community grants, council noted that several applications could be directed to the BIA in future, reducing the demand on the town’s limited fund.

In a report from the town’s ad hoc committee on grant selection, it was noted that municipal staff have been tasked with determining how economic development-related events should be funded — including passing it on to the BIA. Examples of what might be considered by the BIA include a proposed literary festival, a gathering of Island and mainland Rotary Club members and other activities that could draw visitors.

The current head of the group that spearheaded the BIA, says he knows there are some big expectations and a new executive board will have their work cut out for them.

Cliff McNeil-Smith, business owner and president of the Sidney Business Development Group (SBDG), said he was pleased the BIA was successful after a nine-month effort to convince people it was the right thing to do. Now, he continued, comes the election of a new board of directors to lead the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society.

“There is a board right now,” he said, “and we’re going to be meeting soon to set a date for those elections.”

That elected board — which could be in place as early as the end of April — will be responsible for how an estimated $250,000 will be spent on marketing efforts and other ways to attract more people to town.

He said the BIA group will be asking business owners, charitable groups and residents to provide feedback on marketing plans for Sidney.

“It’s about Sidney,” he said. “It’s about being able to tell our story.”

To be able to do that, the society will need cash. Their fiscal year begins April 1, 2014, said McNeil-Smith and right now there is no money. That will come when the town collects the BIA levy attached to commercial taxes. In the meantime, McNeil-Smith said the new bylaw allows the town to front 50 per cent of the current year grant amount. He said the society will rely on that to get them started this year.

The BIA bylaw set out by the town is now in effect and requires the society to have a balanced budget, audited annual financial statements, insurance and approved policy statements.

The society is independent of the town — the municipality acting only as taxpayer and in a financial oversight role — and is required to cover its own costs through the commercial properties levy, which will be paid to the society on or before July 15 in each calendar year.

By the Numbers

• The Town for Sidney’s BIA bylaw is in effect from 2013 to 2017, a five-year term.

• Commercial properties will be charged a levy of $1.06 per $1,000 of assessed value.

• Total levy in 2013: $250,000 (based on 2012 property assessments).

• Estimated budget revenue in 2013: $317,000 ($67,000 in associate memberships and partnerships).

• Annual cost of living increase to the total levy cap in each of the subsequent four years: 2.5 per cent.

• Measuring success: merchant revenue growth; commercial vacancy stats; web hits; hotel room nights; attractions visitor numbers; info centre user numbers.