After two-year journey, Argyle BIA one step closer to reality
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter2
The Argyle Business Improvement Area (BIA) is one step closer to a reality after receiving unanimous support from a city committee.
During the Finance and Administrative Services Committee meeting on Monday (Sept. 24), the members supported introduction of a bylaw that would establish a business district that would support 177 property owners and tenants. Should council give final approval at its Oct. 9 meeting, the district would stretch along Dundas Street from Highbury Avenue to Wavell Street.
Ward 2 Councillor Bill Armstrong attended the finance meeting and said the work around creating the BIA, done by the existing Argyle Business Improvement Association, has already led to significant benefit within the community. Armstrong pointed to the recent opening of a community policing office and other more networking initiatives as two examples of what can happen when a community works together.
“In the past year and a half years the (association) has left its mark on the business community. Neighbourhood enhancements, special events, we have a program, Business-to-Business where members promote each other’s business,” Armstrong said. “There was a little bump in the road getting through the process . . . but I think we are off on a great track.”
Despite having very similar names, the association is simply a collection of like-minded individuals who come together with a common goal — in this case, supporting the Argyle area — while a BIA is a product of provincial law under the Municipal Act. Creation of a BIA allows for the creation of a levy, which is collected by the municipality, and is used for various enhancements of the area.
Although not yet officially approved, the Argyle BIA was given $100,000 in one-time funding by council to get it started. Armstrong reaffirmed that is the last public money being put to the initiative. “There will be no tax dollars from residents. It is all business supporting business and that is a good thing. I hope others will look at that model in the future.”
Nancy McSloy, Argyle Business Improvement Association executive director, was in attendance at the meeting and agreed the BIA will be self-sustaining. The funding raised by the BIA will be used to fund its operation, which McSloy said would likely see a budget of around $120,000.
Mayor Joe Fontana praised the efforts of Armstrong, McSloy, Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Orser and many others with creating the overwhelming support in the community for the BIA. Of the 177 businesses within the proposed BIA, only 13 of them — or 7.3 per cent — spoke out against establishment of the district.
“It is up to the merchants as to whether or not they want it. What better way to engage people than to say it might cost you a little more, but there will be a benefit to the area,” Fontana said. “That there was only 7.3 per cent who objected to it I think is a tribute to the work that has been done by the councillor and others.”
McSloy said it was back in May 2010 that she and Armstrong first started working on ideas around creation of a BIA. That led to creation of a committee and eventually a volunteer board.
An official board will be voted upon, following final council approval, at an upcoming Argyle BIA annual general meeting. McSloy said members of the public are invited to apply for the permanent board and she expects, with all the support the district has received, there could be quite a number of individuals putting their names forward.
“We’ve had wonderful support from the community. It means the businesses are supportive. They really are on board,” McSloy said. “We have also had a lot of support from the city, from city council, from the planning department. It is a huge project and I can understand why it has taken so long.”
McSloy agreed with Armstrong in his feelings that the BIA will make a significant difference for the community.
“There are so many things, we have done so many already, but a lot more are coming to make it a healthier, more vibrant, safe community to shop in, to live in,” McSloy said. “We are working with the community, residents. It is going to be great for business owners because there is so much going on.”
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