PENTICTON - The City of Penticton wants the public to get involved in the debate regarding the value of the city’s Economic Investment Zones.
City Council voted unanimously to include the economic investment zone program in the Official Community Plan review, slated to get underway in the spring.
Director of Development Services Anthony Haddad reported to council on Jan. 17 the business incentive program, established in 2010, has since resulted in 27 projects equating to $34 million in building permit value and 300 new jobs, with three more projects currently under construction.
The program has resulted in municipal tax savings for those companies at an estimated $1.1 million, spread over 12 years.
Haddad said the city should look at a comprehensive financial and economic analysis to determine the pros and cons of the program from a financial perspective, recommending to council the program go before the Official Community Plan for analysis at the public level, as well as to find out what the community wants.
Coun. Campbell Watt asked Haddad how many of the businesses involved in the program would have gone ahead with the upgrades without the incentives. He cited five examples, including Waycon Manufacturing, Landmark Cinemas, Southwood Retirement Resort, the Van Horne residential development and the development at 218 Main Street.
Haddad noted the Van Horne development would not have taken place with the city’s economic incentives, as the developer’s bank refused to finance the project without it.
Coun. Helena Konanz endorsed staff’s recommendation, calling it timely to look at the program in terms of today’s economic climate. She did note, however, even with the incentive, the city was unable to attract a grocery store to the downtown core in the past five years.
Haddad note several other communities in the Thompson-Okanagan region offered tax incentive programs, including Kelowna, Vernon, Peachland and Kamloops. Like Penticton’s, the programs were often tied to an initiative to revitalize the community's downtown cores.
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