Willing to support BIA

In previous years, I have heard the idea of a business improvement area (BIA) being discussed and I was against it

I attended one of the Sidney Business Development Group’s presentations at the Sidney Hotel.

In previous years, I have heard the idea of a business improvement area (BIA) being discussed and I was against it primarily because I could see no direct benefits for my business. We are an accounting firm, not merchants, so in increase in tourist or Victoria-based foot traffic would not bring us any more business.

However, I have a different perspective now.

Over the past four of five years, I have seen a gradual decline in business for many of my existing clients and a number of newly-established clients have gone out of business.

My bad debt experience used to be maybe $500 a year and now it is closer to $10,000.

I have seen developments such as ones in Chemainus and Gastown and I assume that these were the result of concerted efforts by a BIA or similar organization. I would be interested in hearing about success stories, as well as failures, where this has been tried elsewhere.

I have seen Sidney develop more of a seaside and pedestrian-friendly theme over the years, with park benches, underground Hydro, a one-way street on Beacon Avenue, the seafront walkway and the street lights fixtures. I also remember what a struggle it was to implement this — many of the ideas came from mayors like Marie Rosko and Don Amos.

Yet, the merchants were deeply divided about issues such as the potential loss of parking on a one-way street.

I think this has been a great first step.

I can see an advantage of driving this forward through a BIA because it has no vested interest in the outcome, is completely  non-political and it can cheerfully steal great ideas from other municipalities without being accused of plagiarism.

It needs to have real focus, as our politicians have to be concerned about a myriad of other issues such as sewers and street repairs.

Our merchants are more concerned about covering their next payroll.

This project is all about making Sidney as a whole a great place to visit and shop and dine out.

It would be nice to see a similar initiative for Brentwood — they have taken some first steps by installing crosswalks and widening pavements but there is no real sense of a central theme.

I do understand that this could potentially cost my firm around $750 a year but I would be willing to give it a try for three years to see what evolves.

I would also be interested in participating in the ongoing discussions.

Chris Cowland