Four Penticton candidates who support economic investment zones for the city - InfoNews

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Four Penticton candidates who support economic investment zones for the city

Penticton mayoral and council candidates weighed in on the question of benefits of the city's economic investment zones in one of a series of questions posed to them by Infonews.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED
October 09, 2018 - 6:30 PM

PENTICTON - Economic growth is seen as a key issue in the Penticton municipal election campaign.

The current city council has created economic zones in an effort lure investment and business to certain parts of the city.

With the campaign in full swing, iNFOnews.ca sent all candidates a questionnaire to find out where they stand on a number of issues, including economic development.

We asked: Do you believe the city is on the right course with its economic zones? What, if anything, would you change in this policy?

Two of the mayoral candidates and two council candidates agreed with the city's policy, while three of the people running for mayor disagreed along with seven councillor candidates. The rest had other ideas.

Please note the entire text of each candidate answer is provided at the bottom of the page.

CANDIDATES WHO AGREE WITH THE POLICY:

Andrew Jakubeit (for Mayor): The program helped to create market confidence and momentum.

Dominic Wheeler (for Mayor): We have a strong focus on the downtown core and would benefit to stimulate other areas of culture and character with the benefits offered by EIZ’s.

Julius Bloomfield: During good economic times the incentive packages can be reduced, during hard times they can be increased.

Max Picton: While not as critical as they once were, they still have a place, as we have the ability to adjust them to align with our community’s current goals.

CANDIDATES WHO DISAGREE WITH THE POLICY:

Jukka Laurio (for Mayor): Bad policy for a city with no growth, it creates modern new spaces but leaves empty spaces in its wake.

Jason Cox (for Mayor): Programs should be short term and elicit a precise outcome, not last for a decade and offer blanket incentives that don’t achieve our community goals.

John Vassilaki (for Mayor): The incentives were never intended to go on forever. Frankly, they should have been reviewed last term. This term, I would review the economic zones in reference to the goals of the new Official Community Plan.

Well known Penticton businessman and former city councillor John Vassilaki, running for Penticton mayor in this month's municipal election.
Well known Penticton businessman and former city councillor John Vassilaki, running for Penticton mayor in this month's municipal election.

Marie Prior: Handing taxpayers’ dollars to business interest groups is no longer acceptable, no factual accountability to provide taxpayers with reasons to continue with EIZ’s.

Daryl Clarke: I think at the time of their inception the economic investment zones were a necessary evil, but the economy has changed and the need for economic investment zones has run its course.

Frank Regehr: Our EIZ programs should not be given credit for the construction growth happening throughout the Okanagan.

Doug Maxwell:  A few years ago I suggested to the economic developer at the time that it (EIZ’s) was the wrong direction.

Katie Robinson: These zones only work for a limited time frame and then they need to be eliminated.

Glenn Clark: I’d vote to change this policy.

Jake Kimberley: Developers only develop when the market is strong, which it has been for the past three to four years, they don’t need tax giveaways to encourage investment.

Connie Sahlmark: I do believe Economic Incentive Zones are a part of good planning however I do not support the waiving of taxes.

THREE CANDIDATES HAD THEIR OWN ANSWERS:

James Blake (mayoral candidate): “We have to focus on the entire city thriving with economic vibrancy.”

Campbell Watt: “The economic investment zones that existed have expired and there is no direction to review or reinstate any of these at this time.”

Kevin Proteau: “To me, we need to look at what the business brings to Penticton and does it benefit us?”

THESE CANDIDATES DID NOT RESPOND:

John Archer
Duffy Baker
Karen Brownlee
Christopher Evison
Joe Frocklage
Isaac Gilbert
Lynn Kelsey
Jesse Martin
David O’Brien
Christopher Millin
Darryl Sanders
Judy Sentes


FULL RESPONSES TO THE QUESTION: Do you believe the city is on the right course with its economic zones? What, if anything, would you change in this policy?

MAYORAL

Jukka Laurio: Bad policy for a city with no growth, it creates modern new spaces but leaves empty spaces in its wake.  No progress, resulting in reduced future tax revenues and financial issues for local property owners not participating in the program.

Andrew Jakubeit: Our economic investment zones have actually expired already. They did serve a purpose when initially put in place in 2010 as a response to the economic downturn. It created jobs, investment, and helped to revitalize downtown. The program also helped to create market confidence and momentum. Landmark cinemas is the best example as the incentive helped ensure the project could be viable as the property in question was priced at a premium. Other entertainment businesses have since moved into the downtown core (Bad Tattoo, Cannery Brewing, Time winery) as a result.

James Blake: The entire City needs to be an economic investment zoon. We have to focus on the entire city thriving with economic vibrancy.

Jason Cox:  Was on the Economic Development Committee that lobbied the council in 2008 for the establishment of Economic Incentive Zones. The global economy had just crashed and governments were trying to find a way to keep investments and development going. The original plan was meant to be a short-term incentive. Successive councils with Mr. Vassilaki and Mr. Jakubeit have continued to renew the program even after the economy recovered. As a result, we have left millions of dollars on the table by incentivizing development that would have occurred anyway. I would suggest a better approach would to be to implement a system of density bonuses that allow a developer to maintain profitability in a project while providing community investments that we are looking for such as parks, infrastructure or even designating a portion of their project for affordable units. Programs should be short term and elicit a precise outcome not last for a decade and offer blanket incentives that don’t achieve our community goals.

Dominic Wheeler: The EIZs have created a number of benefits for the City of Penticton, by encouraging economic activity in the downtown core. I would prefer to see less focus on corporate tax breaks and helping small businesses establish themselves throughout the community. We have a strong focus on the downtown core and would benefit to stimulate other areas of culture and character with the benefits offered by EIZs.

John Vassilaki - The economic zones were developed in 2008 while I was on Council.  They were created to incent development and they worked.  We were entering an economic downturn and there were indicators that we were already behind on needed development.  However, the incentives were never intended to go on forever.  Frankly they should have been reviewed last term.  This term I would review the economic zones in reference to the goals of the new Official Community Plan.

Connie Sahlmark is running for a Penticton council seat.
Connie Sahlmark is running for a Penticton council seat.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

COUNCIL CANDIDATES

Connie Sahlmark: I do believe Economic incentive zones are a part of good planning however I do not support the waiving of taxes. We need to be cognizant of who comprise the tax base; this city cannot afford to give cash incentives of this nature. I support facilitating development during the permit process with the understanding bylaw compliance is incumbent. Variances will not be the norm. The city needs smart development not development at any cost.

Other incentives could include partnering with the College to subsidize training of the locals thereby supplying a qualified labour pool. Partner with Developers to address the missing middle housing on municipally owned land. Tax reductions for Step Code  4 and 5 construction or ZEB (Zero Emissions Building) compliant structures.

Campbell Watt: Currently there are no economic investment zones in place, other than some development cost charge reductions for things like affordable housing. The economic investment zones that existed have expired and there is no direction to review or reinstate any of these at this time.

Marie Prior:  No. Handing taxpayers' dollars to business interest groups no longer acceptable, no factual accountability to provide taxpayers with reasons to continue with EIZ. The residential Tax ratio/multiplier, penalizing home owners.

Daryl Clarke: I think at the time of there inception the economic investment zones where a necessary evil, but the economy has changed and the need for the economic investment zones has run its course. Right now we are losing tax dollars and revenue that the city desperately needs. What we do need to do is help business by setting up a process where the cost are all known up front and the goal posts don’t keep moving as you move through the process, as we need an inspection system where all the people involved communicate with each other to help businesses overcome problems and not create more of them.

Kevin Proteau: Well, they are discussing ending or winding down current EIZ's. To me we need to look at what the business brings to Penticton and does it benefit us? I do address such a business in my platform I feel would be beneficial for Penticton. We need to get a COOP started in Penticton that is headed by locals that are experienced in such a venture. We need to start building greenhouses that grow local ethical organic foods all year long and make it not only healthy but affordable to everyone is our community. After all we work to buy food and keep a roof over our head but today's prices make it very hard for people to afford quality food. So this is something worth giving an incentive to.

Frank Regehr: EIZ’s are inherently unfair and should not be renewed.  All taxpayers pay higher taxes while a few development properties are receiving over $3 million in concessions. Our EIZ programs should not be given credit for the construction growth happening throughout the Okanagan.

Max Picton: The EIZ’s have done a fantastic job achieving their goal of stimulating development in town. They aren’t the sole reason many of the developments occurred but they certainly have contributed positively. While not as critical as they once were, they still have a place, as we have the ability to adjust them to align with our community’s current goals.

Julius Bloomfield: I think they have worked to improve the economic stability of the city. During good economic times the incentive packages can be reduced, during hard times they can be increased. A successful community is one that has a well balanced mix of ages, a mix of commercial activity and the housing to meet the needs of a community.

Doug Maxwell: Elimination of the EIZ is my choice. A few years ago I suggested to the economic developer at the time that it was the wrong direction.

Katie Robinson: No.These zones only work for a limited time frame and then they need to be eliminated.

Glenn Clark: We all pay so much tax in Penticton. I was never a fan of two tiers like this as it favors new businesses yet established businesses in competition who have long contributed to the city through taxes continue to pay.  I’d vote to change this policy.

Jake Kimberley: No, the E I Zones was a great loss of revenue for the city, revenue that could have helped to rebuild our infrastructure.  Developers only develop when the market is strong which it has been for the last three to four years, they don’t need tax giveaways to courage investment.  I understand the city has lost close to 3 million dollars since they introduced the EIZ giveaway.

Tell us what you think in the comments below.


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