City of North Vancouver delays vote on LoLo BIA after counter-bid fails to stop motion

A proposed Lower Lonsdale business improvement area has earned enough support from landowners, but is still awaiting council’s blessing before it can go ahead.

City council opted Monday to defer the BIA decision, a motion made by Coun. Holly Back who requested staff report back with a clearer picture of how much the BIA levy would cost individual business owners.

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The deferral comes on the heels of a counter-petition that recorded opposition to the BIA from 31 per cent of the area’s landowners – well short of the majority needed to defeat the proposal.

The BIA has proposed a $500,000 annual operating budget set to be divided proportionally amongst property owners, which would likely be downloaded to tenants.

“And it is a concern for small business,” said Back, a former small business owner herself.

Back also asked for clarity as to why hotels within the BIA as well as Lonsdale Quay Market would pay at a rate 50 per cent lower than that charged other property owners – “because big businesses can afford it and small business can’t.”

Lonsdale Quay merchants already pay a common area fee and hotels pay a two per cent tourism tax, explained the city’s business services manager Larry Orr.

The BIA would collect $1- $1.10 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The average landowner in LoLo, where the median assessment value is $430,000, would pay an annual levy of $440.

A BIA’s main objective is for its members to collectively fund community enhancement projects and marketing campaigns through the levy.

Council voted 4-3 in July to trigger a counter-petition, meaning 50 per cent of property owners within the BIA boundary – representing at least half the area’s land value – had to register their opposition to defeat the BIA.

Owners had 30 days to respond to the petition which was mailed out to 323 Lower Lonsdale property owners in the middle of August. Coun. Don Bell had unsuccessfully pushed to delay the petition process until after Labour Day.

The timing of the petition and the process itself has presented concerns for at least three councillors – Bell, Pam Bookham and Rod Clark.

Bell, while seeing the value in a merchants’ association, speaking from the perspective of being a one-time small business owner, reiterated that he was against the BIA petition because of the timing. September, said Bell, would have been a “fairer” month to hold the petition.

Bookham agreed that August is a month when people generally aren’t available for business matters.

“Sometimes, it does seem like a process can be rigged or at least can be designed to facilitate a particular outcome,” said Bookham.

Calling council’s vote on the BIA a “dark day in North Vancouver,” Clark said the “bad process” was a negative petition slanted towards those in favour of a BIA.

Clark went on to say he has “absolutely no confidence in the Lower Lonsdale Business Association,” the volunteer-run organization tasked with the BIA bid with funding from the city.

“The reason being that they have already had $120,000 … and we have nothing to show for it,” said Clark. “In fact, we have two other failed attempts at a BIA. So, are they good stewards of money? Certainly not so far.”

Coun. Craig Keating said he’s glad to see the BIA come to fruition and praised the LoLo business community volunteers that “want to create something that has been proven a success” in cities across North America, B.C. and the Lower Mainland.

Coun. Linda Buchanan said it’s a good time to tie the BIA bid in with other new projects in LoLo – The Shipyards, the North Vancouver Museum, and Polygon Gallery. Calling the BIA a divisive process, Buchanan said some LoLo business have been confused by people who are “really undermining this process.”

Mayor Darrell Mussatto acknowledged that it has been a contentious issue for some, saying any frustration with the negative petition process should be directed to the province, which sets out the legislation.

Speaking after the meeting, a disappointed LLBA president Bill Curtis said: “I am stunned at how misinformed council is and how long they have had an opportunity to get educated about it.”

Clark was the only councillor opposed to the deferral motion, which carried 6-1. The BIA matter is expected to be back before council in a few weeks.

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