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City seeks financial boost for growth incentive program after it 'exceeds expectations'

Tuesday, Council will vote on a staff recommendation to transfer $150,000 from reserves to keep the incentive program running, with an additional $350,000 earmarked to cover 2021 applications, as needed.
2020 09 15 North Bay City Hall 1 (Stu Campaigne)
North Bay City Hall. Stu Campaigne/BayToday

An infusion of funding is needed for the Growth Community Improvement Program (GCIP) — a financial incentive program a City of North Bay staff report says "has exceeded expectations."

When GCIP was approved by North Bay City Council in 2019, as a means to spur development and increase industrial development, housing intensification and downtown waterfront commercial projects, staff was instructed to provide updates and one was scheduled for this fall, "However, because of the first-year success, staff is providing an update on the Growth CIP earlier than expected," reports Adam Curran, Policy and Business Development Planner for the City.

Tuesday, Council will vote on a staff recommendation to authorize the Chief Financial Officer to transfer $150,000 from reserves to keep the incentive program running and in good standing, with an additional $350,000 earmarked to cover 2021 applications, as needed.

Curran notes the transfer of funds to the program "will provide short-term funding to sustain the Growth CIP program until such time that the annual contributions from Council through the operating budget are equal to the funding required for the program."

GCIP received initial funding of $600,000 for the program in the City's 2020 budget "plus a base budget increase of $120,000 which was to increase annually by $100,000. Due to the pandemic and the levy pressures in 2021, the base budget was not increased as planned," explains Curran.

The GCIP reserve fund now sits at approximately $90,000 but with applications in 2020 averaging $39,000, the report advises only two more financial requests in similar amounts can be approved. 

Writes Curran, "The program has exceeded expectations. Therefore, the annual increase in the levy will require a few years to stabilize the program and make it self-funding."

A Community Improvement Plan allows a municipality to support improvements and redevelopment within defined specific project areas. North Bay's program is split into four different target areas: Downtown, Industrial, Housing, and Waterfront. Each target area is then divided into its own set of guidelines and incentives.

The staff report acknowledges the response to GCIP was underestimated, with the forecast for the number of successful applicants in 2020 pegged at eight downtown, one industrial, and one housing.

In reality, the team "reviewed and approved 20 applications, 15 within the Downtown Target Area, three within the Housing Target Area, and two within the Industrial Target Area. The first year has seen more applications than were anticipated and because of this the reserve fund is almost committed," according to the report. 

How is this "success" measured?

Focusing solely on the Downtown aspect, the report states the 15 applications in the downtown target area have an average request of just under $40,000 from GCIP, and a total of nearly $600,000 of public sector dollars committed, while the estimated private sector investment is approaching $10 million. Before the tax increment grant is figured in, for every dollar of public sector municipal funding, the private sector invests $16.20, according to the City of North Bay. 

In meeting two major goals of the GCIP in the Downtown Target Area, Curran reports those 15 applications are expected to create "approximately 23 full-time jobs and 18 part-time jobs. The proposals will also create approximately 84 additional residential units...and once construction is complete will play a vital role in the revitalization of the Downtown."

Along the theme of the revitalization of the core of North Bay, the goals and priorities in the Downtown Target Area are to:

  • create new permanent jobs or full-time equivalent positions;
  • support infill development;
  • improve the physical condition of buildings, while providing for new usable space;
  • increase the number of professional workers;
  • increase the number of residential units;
  • maintain or increase property values;
  • develop spaces or properties that are currently vacant or underutilized;
  • attract shoppers;
  • enhance the attractiveness and further develop the vision of the Downtown, as outlined in the Official Plan;
  • support the development of the Downtown and Waterfront areas as a demand generator and tourism destination;
  • encourage development that complements the built form and commercial mix in the downtown; and
  • support significant private sector investment.

And, the role of GCIP is to encourage private sector investment to accomplish those goals and meet those priorities. Here is a look at what initiatives are available through the Downtown-focused part of the program:

Tax Increment Rebate

  • Up to 5 years incremental municipal tax rebate

Municipal Fee Rebate

  • 100% rebate for applicable municipal fees

Development Charges Rebate

  • 100% rebate for applicable development charges

Professional Study Grant

  • Up to 75% to a maximum of $5,000 toward eligible third party professional fees

Facade Improvement Grant

  • Up to 50% to a maximum of $15,000 toward eligible facade improvements

Building Improvement Grant

  • Up to 50% to a maximum of $30,000 toward eligible building improvements

Public Art Grant

  • Up to 50% to a maximum of $2,500 toward eligible public art

Parking and Landscaping Grant

  • Up to 50% to a maximum of $5,000 toward eligible parking and landscaping

Parking and Transit Fee Rebates

  • 3-year 50% rebate toward parking or transit passes for new commercial businesses
  • 1-year 50% rebate toward parking or transit passes for net new residential units

Parking Requirement Exemption

  • Provides a reduction in the parking requirements where applicable

Sidewalk Patio Grant

  • Up to 100% grant to a maximum of $1,000 toward eligible third party professional fees
  • Up to 100% grant to a maximum of $1,000 toward eligible construction costs

In the Housing Target Area, the primary objective is to encourage infill and intensification of housing developments. From the three approved applications to date, private sector investment is approximately $7.7 million and the approved public sector incentives amounted to $105,000. According to the City, before taking into consideration the tax increment grant, for every dollar of municipal public funds, the private sector invests $72.95. The average public sector investment per application is $35,180. Through the three applications, 37 residential units will be created.

In the Industrial Target Area,  the primary objective within is to help support or encourage the creation of diversified employment opportunities and new employment opportunities. According to the City, the two successful applications will have a total private sector investment of approximately $6.7 million and the public sector request was $90,000. Before taking into consideration the tax increment grant, for every dollar of public funds, the private sector is investing $74.38. The total average public sector investment per application is $45,037.50. It is anticipated, between these two applications, a total of 30 full-time jobs will be created.


Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for BayToday.ca, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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