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Proposed BIA expansion shelved for 2021

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A proposal to continue the process to expand the Tillsonburg BIA boundaries in 2021 ­– which would involve a vote by applicable businesses in the new areas ­­– was defeated at Tillsonburg council’s Jan. 25 virtual meeting.

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At the Dec. 14 council meeting, Mark Renaud, executive director of the Tillsonburg BIA, requested that council consider its request to expand the current Business Improvement Area boundary. At that meeting council directed staff to prepare a report on the BIA boundary request, including the process involved, and options available for council’s consideration.

In town clerk Michelle Smibert’s Jan. 25 report, those options would be – not altering the boundary, allowing the boundary expansion process to proceed, asking for additional information from the BIA prior to making a decision, or asking for additional information from town staff.

Coun. Pete Luciani’s proposed a resolution to proceed with the boundary expansion request.

“I like this section because it allows the potential people that may belong to the BIA to voice their opinion,” said Deputy Mayor Dave Beres. “And it’s not about Council’s decision, it’s about the people, because if the (boundary expansion) letter is circulated to the individuals as to whether they want to join the BIA or not, they have the opportunity to say yes or no. And if the third percentage says no, then it’s a no… this option allows them to have input whether they want to belong or not.”

Coun. Penny Esseltine questioned the timing of the process considering some businesses in the proposed expansion area, which extended to the Community Centre north of the downtown to Annandale National Historic Site in the east, are not currently open during the pandemic lockdown.

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“I’m wondering about putting questions like this forward to them when they are unsure of the future of their business,” said Esseltine.

“As a taxpayer of the Town of Tillsonburg I just think it’s very important that I now start looking at tax savings for next year’s budget,” said Coun. Chrissy Rosehart. “And to spend this kind of money, at this kind of time when the people are already stressed, have no idea if their businesses are going to open again, they have no businesses now because their businesses are closed… I’d rather not put this through and wait for another year, to at least give the people in the businesses time to get their feet back on the ground and see where they stand.”

“I haven’t had any positive feedback from members of the community at this point in regard to expanding the boundary,” said Coun. Chris Parker. “I think it may not be the time right now to look at it. In a year from now when this climate has changed a little bit, it might be, but right now I don’t think we’re ready for the expansion.”

“What would be the reasoning for this to be such an emergency to have it done within this year, and it can’t wait for another year?” Rosehart asked Smibert.

“I can’t speak on behalf of the BIA, the reality is we have a request and it’s in front of council to make a decision on the request,” said Smibert.

“I grew up in this town, I was born in this town, and I know what the BIA is,” said Mayor Stephen Molnar. “I’m very proud of the BIA and proud of the downtown.”

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Molnar also recognized the leadership of the BIA, especially during the pandemic.

“In our official plan, and not just because it’s in our official plan but because it’s the right thing to do, the downtown of Tillsonburg should be the strongest core of any of our retail and service delivery opportunity. That’s the core of our community.”

And that downtown core had no natural reflection, said Molnar, in the proposed expansion area.

“It doesn’t represent my core understanding of the BIA.”

In a recorded vote, which ended in a 3-3 tie (Coun. Deb Gilvesy did not vote), the resolution to proceed this year was defeated. It was opposed by councillors Rosehart and Parker, and Mayor Molnar.

cabbott@postmedia.com

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