On Monday night city council approved an incremental tax grant program aimed at vacant buildings that would see tax increases caused by the increasing value of buildings that are developed phased in over five years. Developers wouldn’t be hit with a jump in taxes right away.
The DBA has been pushing for action on vacant buildings for some time and recently developed a list of vacant properties that could be used by businesses looking for space in the city
DBA chair Jim Parsons said his group wasn’t consulted on the tax grant and if it had been they would have told the city it was a good start, but not enough.
“They’re not really bold enough to stimulate development,” said Parsons on Tuesday.
“You could be a lot more aggressive and still not cost city hall anything.”
In fact, Parsons said it could be worth forgoing tax increases indefinitely if the development results in getting businesses in the buildings.
His reasoning is that the city would stand to collect a lot more in business tax than it would in property tax, especially if more than one business can be accommodated.
Parsons said another step would be the implementation of an inspection fee to ensure buildings are safe while they sit vacant.
He said such fees are seen in many jurisdictions and are used by municipalities to inspect for safety hazards and make a site is secure and safe for first responders who may have to enter it.
Sheldon Peddle, president of the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade, said his group is pleased to see the city put the incremental tax grant in place.
He said a poll conducted by the board prior to the most recent city budget being released showed widespread support of making changes to the taxation system for derelict and vacant properties.
“This could be that little incentive that makes it a little bit easier for us to get those investors in and breathe some new life back into some of those old properties.”
The fact that it is available to all vacant properties in the city is also seen as positive, as there are many opportunities that exist outside the downtown core.
In terms of the downtown, Peddle said the benefit to the community in terms of aesthetics would be to have a downtown that looks energetic and vibrant.
Peddle does still see other areas that need work and said there is a need to minimize urban sprawl.
When new buildings go up it’s usually on the outskirts of the city, which means a need for roads, infrastructure and fire services. He said a side benefit of developing vacant buildings within the city could be minimizing that urban sprawl.