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Seasonal businesses get slight reprieve

Seasonal businesses in Canmore’s downtown area will see a decrease in development permit fees this summer, but only if they make efforts to improve the esthetics of their operations.

Seasonal businesses in Canmore’s downtown area will see a decrease in development permit fees this summer, but only if they make efforts to improve the esthetics of their operations.

The temporary businesses saw a major increase to their annual development permit fee from $225 a year to $350 a month in the 2011 operating budget’s master fee schedule.

In addition to that, the Town has proposed major changes to the Land Use Bylaw that would regulate how the businesses look and operate in the downtown core.

The three major seasonal business owners objected to the double hit at a recent public hearing and council approved a request to roll back the permit fee this year to allow them to address esthetic concerns first.

Manager of planning Gary Buxton told council on Tuesday (April 19) the Land Use Bylaw is currently under review and will not be ready in time for seasonal businesses to begin annual operations.

“The request is we hold off on the fee increase for the time being until the new Land Use Bylaw regulations take hold,” Buxton said. “We are encouraging them to step up to the plate and demonstrate what they can do.”

Councillor John Borrowman pointed out the two conversations, the Land Use Bylaw and the development permit fees, are separate of each other.

Borrowman said the idea that council wants to shut down these businesses couldn’t be further from the truth and they have been enjoying low permit fees that haven’t been changed for a number of years.

“I do not think a fee increase is out of line or sufficient to shut down their business,” he said.

Buxton said the reasoning behind both changes was to even the playing field for businesses and the seasonal ones are telling administration both go too far.

He said they are willing to address the esthetics and landscaping of their operations this summer without the fee increase.

Mayor Ron Casey was not satisfied at leaving the promise of improvements as informal and passed a motion that tied the permit fee decrease to a written agreement to improve aesthetics and landscaping.

“This doesn’t come for free,” said the mayor. “We will leave the fee where it is, but there is truly an expectation there will be increased architecture and landscaping provided.”

Borrowman did not support the amended motion, noting every other downtown business promotes the area 12 months of the year and pay the expenses of being a year-round operation.

Councillor Jim Ridley, in light of that, put forward a motion to see seasonal businesses contribute $225 to the downtown business revitalization zone (BRZ).

However, due to the fact BRZs are mandated under the Municipal Government Act and membership determined through a bylaw, Ridley’s motion was changed to require them to contribute $225 to marketing the downtown area.

That change, however, saw support for the overall motion to reduce permit fees waiver.

Coun. Ed Russell said the move was grasping and reaching.

Coun. Hans Helder said the motion reached a reasonable compromise to deal with the situation and flexibility for the future.

Casey said he was all right with the motion up until the $225 seasonal business fee was added to it.

He said if it is the direction of council to create new fees it is better handled within the business registry where what that money is for is clear.

The mayor pointed out the intent of the changes to both the permit fee and the LUB was to try and achieve better architecture and landscaping on the site.

“There was never an intent to be punitive,” he said. “I am concerned by charging an extra fee we will not get landscaping and architectural changes.”

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