The topic of downtown revitalization remains the main topic of discussion at town council chambers.
Week after week, mayor and council discuss various issues related to revitalizing the town’s downtown core.
By far the biggest improvement facing the town’s downtown core will be next year’s re-paving of the main stretch of town, down South Shore Road.
Although the Ministry of Transportation is paying for the paving project, any work in addition to the actual road will have to be paid for by town taxpayers.
Rather than have the road appear the exact same, only with new pavement, the town’s elected officials are opting to make other improvements to the road, the specifics of which have yet to be decided.
Mayor and council are constantly seeking input from the public as to what they’d like South Shore Road to look like.
In addition to this, many other issues were touched upon during the town’s most recent committee meetings, Tuesday, October 11.
“Dressing up the town isn’t the only answer, but we have to start somewhere,” mayor Ross Forrest said.
Additional efforts include things like bumping up interest in the Pacific Marine Circle Route; a roadway that links Lake Cowichan with Port Renfew, Sooke, Victoria, Duncan, and all the communities inbetween.
Meetings with various stakeholders are ongoing. One particularly interesting meeting is coming up Wednesday, October 19, during which time Forrest is meeting with a group of Vancouver Island University graduate students who are planning on doing field work along the route.
“It’ll be useful for the whole route,” Forrest said, of the field work.
“They’ll be able to see the strong parts and the weak parts. I think it’ll be beneficial to our area.”
The following are some of the downtown revitalization-related topics of discussion.
• The revitalization tax exemptions, wherein taxes can be temporarily frozen to encouraged property owners to make improvements to their buildings, have been adopted, though there will be none approved for this year.
For next year, council decided that they should do some leg work in promoting this idea.
“That’s where I think that council has to be salesmen,” mayor Ross Forrest said.
“It’ll be up to us to explain the benefits of them.”
• Varying tax rates have a similar goal, and would allow the town to tax properties differently, including derelict properties.
The town successfully got a resolution to allow such taxation, through the Union of BC Municipalities.
“Now, we wait for the province’s response,” councillor Tim McGonigle said.
“They have replied in the past that we already have these tools, but I feel that this will have more of a bite.”
• A grant application has been sent in to help create a town square around the town’s upcoming brand-new library building.
The proposed square would cost $380,000, for engineering, infrastructure, park improvements, banners, baskets, street furniture, and other things.
The grant would cover 1/3, or $126,500, of the cost.
“I’m sure we’re going to keep looking for assistance,” mayor Ross Forrest said.
• The town will be looking into getting some provincial grant money for the proposed Centennial Park improvements.
At the recent Union of BC Municipalities Convention, the premier announced $30 million in funding for recreational facilities.
“All of our ears perked up, and we said ‘Centennial Park,” mayor Ross Forrest said.
The details will be in by October 18, with council sure to apply for grants for the next phase of development.