Bylaw aims to boost Town's vitality

Give them incentives, and Comox council is hoping they will come.

Council approved at Wednesday's committee of the whole meeting for staff to be authorized to draft bylaws to implement the Comox Downtown Vitalization Program Bylaw, which aims to attract mix-use commercial/resident development to downtown, and increase the Town's economic, social and environmental vitality.

"This is potentially a huge win for our tax base," said Mayor Paul Ives.

Town planner Marvin Kamenz presented the downtown vitalization program, which was identified as one of the strategic priorities in the 2012-2014 Strategic Plan.

Last year, council directed staff to investigate the feasibility of using the Lorne Hotel site redevelopment as a pilot project for the range of development incentives, including property tax exemptions, explained Kamenz.

The program consists of four bylaws: downtown revitalization tax exemption, zoning amendment (parking), building permit amendment (fee reduction) and development application bylaw (fee rebate).

Kamenz noted the marketability of the program would be a limited time offer on a first-come, first-serve basis, adding the tax exemption incentive will aid in marketing units to residential buyers and in reducing developer's holding costs for the period between competition of the project and the unit sales.

The exemptions may be for land or improvements, or both, but for the residential building component only. For four-storey buildings, the bylaw proposes 100 per cent of permitted tax exemptions for one year, and 100 per cent of permitted tax exemptions for three years for Built Green BC Silver (or equivalent).

For three-storey buildings, the same regulations would apply at 50 per cent.

The building permit fee reduction would be 50 per cent for buildings of four storeys or more, and 20 per cent for three storeys.

Fifty per cent of a development fees rebate would be available for developments meeting the Oct. 31, 2019 deadline for occupancy permit issuance.

Kamenz said the program timeline includes the recommendation to review and re-evaluate the program at six-month intervals.

Coun. Barbara Price questioned if the program should be open for public comment and consultation.

"All we're doing is really implementing the OCP (Official Community Plan). This is an incentive program," noted Ives.

Kamenz said if the bylaw is adopted by council at the end of June, the program could start as early as July.

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