Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Prince Rupert's Business sector pushes back when it comes to recent guidelines

The City of Prince Rupert's $200,000 consultants report, down-town design guidelines and parking bylaw may be gathering dust for the foreseeable future, that is if a group of Prince Rupert business owners can convince council of what they see is the error of their ways.

Council which recently implemented its business design guidelines heard from a trio of business leaders on Monday night, there to explain that the City's newly introduced  guidelines are impossible to comply with and are putting prohibitive costs on local business owners if they wish to upgrade their properties.

John Marogna, Richard Lutz and Richard Wright spoke before Council on Monday evening and painted a dire picture for the local commercial class, which they suggest won't be helped at all by the city's recent moves.

With a declining economy and a recent exodus of residents out of the city, local business operators are barely hanging on and with the City now adding on extra burdens many fear for their future in the city.

With spending by customers falling locally and the number of their visits declining, the businesses of the city are suffering a double hit from those revenue shortfalls while at the same time facing a growing economic hit from rising taxes, utility fees and charges.

The trio providing a letter endorsed by 46 other business owners who took issue with the City's parking regulations and with the development guidelines.

Parking not surprisingly has once again become a hot button issue for the local business community, an ongoing battle with City Hall that never seems to find a resolution. It by far has to be the most discussed issue in town, and one that always seems to end up with somebody mad at City Hall.

The Mayor offered up his thoughts following the presentation, suggesting that until the economy of the city improves it may be a wise move to hold off on the implementation of the guidelines that have raised so much concern.

And that would seem to be the most sensible approach, if for no other reason than to make things as simple as possible for local business owners to renovate their properties around town, especially those that have deteriorated noticeably along the city's downtown core.

If the city does decide to hold off on its new guidelines, it would be nice to see the local business community take charge of the unsightly mess that some of the properties in town have evolved into after any number of years of neglect.

Still, with 200,000 dollars already spent, one must wonder if there was any kind of feedback provided to the guidelines before implementation, if so, why those concerns didn't find their way into the finished product is an intriguing question.

Beyond that, considering the nature of the city's economy over the last ten years or so, putting any kind of roadblock in the way of improvement seems like an unwise strategy, which is something you might have thought would have been considered before implementation as well.

By putting further pressures on the tenuous state of the city's business class, the risk of further closures to a sector that is struggling seems to be likely. It also could work against attracting any new businesses to the city once they tally up the assorted costs, taxes and charges that it seems are required to operate a business here.

The growing discontent from the existing business class certainly doesn't paint the picture of a business friendly community, an image that the city will have to present if it wishes to bring new opportunities and new services to the city.

Otherwise, the traffic heading out of town towards Terrace and beyond, will only get heavier and heavier.

Shaun Thomas of the Northern View provided some background on the issue and a thorough review of the presentation to council on Monday night.

Prince Rupert Zoning Bylaw items
Prince Rupert Parking study

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