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Underutilized Aldershot properties may qualify for cash incentives

 

Underutilized Aldershot properties may qualify for cash incentives

John Best

A number of private properties in Aldershot may soon qualify for a financial boost from the City of Burlington to realize their potential.

These are underutilized lands identified in the City’s proposed new Community Improvement Plan (CIP). The primary goal of the CIP is to provide incentives to owners of underutilized land to encourage them to upgrade their properties to attract new jobs and grow the tax base. A secondary goal is to clean up contaminated properties in order to protect the environment.

Council is currently putting the final touches on the CIP which has been researched for years by the Burlington Economic Development agency. A statutory public meeting was held this week to gauge public opinion.

The Community Improvement Plan theoretically applies to the entire City, but in the course of its research Economic Development identified priorities, including some in Aldershot.

Shortage of shovel-ready employment lands

Staff advised the Committee that the City should always have at least fifty hectares of shovel ready land to attract new business opportunities, but it only has 20 hectares at the present time.

While some of the of the identified lands are simply vacant or underdeveloped, others are considered to be brownfields.

Brownfields are abandoned, idled or underutilized properties, possibly contaminated, where the City believes there is potential for redevelopment.

“The brownfield sites represent a major economic opportunity for the city because Burlington has a high demand for shovel ready employment lands as showcased by persistently low industrial vacancy rates, but also has the smallest supply of vacant employment land in Halton, therefore the city needs a supply of unencumbered shovel ready employment sites to ensure it remains economically competitive.” according to the staff report.

Possibility of financial assistance

The CIP gives the City the authority to offer grants and other incentives to help the owners of these properties. These incentives may include: an environmental study grant, a fee grant program, a remedial loan program, a tax assistance program and a tax increment grant. There will be lots of details, conditions and rules surrounding these supports. Hamilton has a brownfield redevelopment plan called Erase that has been successful in encouraging the remediation of brownfields. Grants are available to provide financial relief to property owners who undertake and complete brownfield redevelopment projects within the project area. Redevelopment grants are only payable on brownfield properties where the redevelopment results in an increase in assessed value and property taxes. The grant is calculated as 80% of the increase in the municipal portion of property taxes and is paid on annual basis for up to 10 years, commencing once the redevelopment is complete.

In Aldershot, the priority lands identified for the CIP are located primarily near the GO Station, along parts of the Plains Road corridor and in the industrial areas north and south of the 403. The City was unable to provide data on the exact addresses or the specific number of properties that may qualify.

“We do not identify specific parcels as being brownfields as these lands are privately held and individual landowners need to undertake environmental assessments to determine the level of contamination on their sites.”

Burlington Economic Development also pointed out that once the City enacts the CIP legislation for employment purposes, there are a variety of other potential CIPs that could be created. In theory a CIP could be used to provide civic incentives to improve affordable housing, revitalize commercial office buildings, strengthen major transportation areas and help with rural development. In this regard the report makes specific reference to downtown Burlington.

“It is important that the City promote the conservation of built cultural heritage resources, the improvement of buildings and building facades, and new development that achieves urban design and architectural excellence in its downtown. Incentive programs focused on the Downtown, such as building and façade improvement grants and loans may have a role to play in helping the City achieve these and other general objectives for the Downtown Urban Centre”.

The Report makes no specific mention of the Aldershot Business Improvement Area (BIA) or the two-decade old Plains Road Village Vision which promoted similar goals for Aldershot’s main street. During the Committee meeting however both staff and Mayor Meed Ward made passing reference to the Aldershot BIA.

Also, in an e-mail exchange Burlington Economic Development Manager Mark Steffler emphasized that for the time being the primary focus of CIP is employment; “As we work to develop a framework and sequencing plan to assess other community improvement needs towards a comprehensive Community Improvement Plan Strategy, the needs of the Plains Road corridor and Aldershot BIA will be incorporated along with other needs in the City”.

The Committee voted to support the creation of the CIP and will give final approval at a Council meeting on March 23rd… There will be a follow-up report, containing more details, later this year.

By Rick Craven

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