Town aims for provincial funds for facade facelift

The Town of Lake Cowichan wants the provincial government to reinstate a program aimed at helping

The Town of Lake Cowichan wants the provincial government to reinstate a program aimed at helping rejuvenate local business areas.

At the Feb. 9 economic and sustainable development committee meeting, committee members approved a resolution for the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities to petition the province to re-implement a grant program that provided financial assistance to businesses.

The funding — up to $20,000 annually per local government — would enable small businesses to undertake improvements to building facades, signage and siding.

The program is still offered to municipalities and regional districts in the province’s northeast, northwest, Prince George and Cariboo-Chilcotin/Lillooet regions.

AVICC’s annual general meeting will be held in Nanaimo from April 8 to 10.

The town hopes the return of such a program would incentivize local business owners to spruce up the exteriors of their buildings and improve the overall appearance of downtown Lake Cowichan.

However, Coun. Tim McGonigle did acknowledge some businesses are renting space and therefore have no control over the actual building.

In 2011, the town implemented a tax exemption program to encourage similar downtown improvements.

“[The town] saw this as an opportunity for properties that made improvements to their buildings, they would then get a tax exemption for five years for that portion that was improved,” said Joseph Fernandez, chief administrative officer.

But the program flopped with no businesses signing up.

“I’m not sure if it was misinformation or not actually understanding the program,” said McGonigle, stating it was designed to alleviate fears of property owners who worry that improvements would result in a higher property assessment which, in turn, would result in higher taxes.”

“This was an avenue to afford them the [ability] to enhance their appearance without seeing that impact. And I don’t think businesses understood the program,” he said.

There are currently no plans to bring back this tax exemption program.