February 01, 2018

Community Improvement Plan takes shape

An open house on Feb. 13 will present the public with various options for the Town of Erin Community Improvement Plan (CIP), expected to launch this spring.
Town council has endorsed the general idea of the program, which will provide grants or loans to local businesses to help pay eligible costs for physical improvements that will benefit the community.
Initial funding of $20,000 has been approved for the CIP, which could cover the entire town. A variety of incentive programs will be possible, but there has been no decision yet on which ones would initially be used.
The Feb. 13 open house will be held at Centre 2000, 6 to 8 p.m. There will be a presentation at 6.30 p.m., light refreshments and a question and answer time.
 “The main focus will be getting input from the community,” said Economic Development Officer Robyn Mulder.
Council received an update on the plan at their Jan. 16 meeting from Mulder, and Nancy Reid of Stantec, the consultant hired to help design the program. It would work in cooperation with a Wellington County CIP called Invest Well, which could provide additional support in Erin.
“The CIP should help reshape the town and provide support for certain types of redevelopment,” said Mulder. “It should communicate that the town is ‘open for business’. It could generate revenue to help balance out the taxes in this town, and attract other investors.”
Substantial improvements to buildings would mean greater tax assessment, though one of the possible incentives could defer those tax increases.
The ratio of grants to loans has not been determined, but repayment of loans could put money back into the program.
Other incentives include fa├žade, signage and property improvements, accessibility projects, design and study funding, and building conversions and expansions.
Councillor Matt Sammut was concerned that the program not cast too wide a net. “I don’t want to put public money into private hands and have no value to the community,” he said.
Mulder assured him that council will still have input on the eligibility criteria, and that the experience of other communities shows that business owners invested substantially in the projects. The total value of the construction was three to five times more than the grants in Haldimand County, Elgin County and the Township of Centre Wellington.