In response to advocacy from the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce and the Port Colborne Business Improvement Area, Port Colborne city council directed staff to review their fees for sidewalk encroachments and elected only to hold fee payments as a deposit, but not to cash any cheques, until the report had been delivered and acted upon. On top of the joint-highest store property taxes in Niagara, Port Colborne also levies high fees for sidewalk encroachments (signs, displays, and goods on the public sidewalk outside of stores). On behalf of the business community in Port Colborne, the GNCC lobbied for council to reconsider these high fees.
The review of fees was given high priority and will be due in late July. Council directed staff to take into account the fees charged by other municipalities and Niagara Region in its study. The GNCC is pleased that City Council was responsive to the needs of the business community, and hopes that they will follow with much-needed permit fee relief for Port Colborne businesses.
Read the presentation below:
Address to Port Colborne City Council
June 13th, 2016 – Sidewalk Encroachment Permits
(Video of GNCC presentation begins at 47m 50s. Video from Cogeco TV)
Good evening Deputy Mayor, councillors, staff, and members of the public. My name is Hugo Chesshire, and I am the policy and government relations manager for the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber represents just under 1,600 members with more than 50,000 employees. It is the largest business organization in Niagara and the third-largest Chamber in Ontario. The Chamber Accreditation Council of Canada has recognized the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce with its highest level of distinction, and we are active members of the Ontario and Canadian Chambers of Commerce.
I have the privilege of addressing you tonight in support of the delegation made by the Downtown Business Improvement Area.
It is a sad fact that the cost of doing business in Ontario is growing. The Ontario government has recently introduced cap-and-trade legislation, which will mean additional costs to businesses.
They are also set to begin deployment of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, or ORPP, in a little over six months. The mandatory contributions therein are effectively the same as a payroll tax for businesses. Electricity costs for small businesses, which have been rising for years, are projected to go up another 25% between 2015 and 2020. A survey by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce revealed that 1 in 20 Ontario businesses expect to close their doors as a result. These are a few examples of the increased costs that our businesses are incurring.
Councillors, you can do little about these examples. However, there are more costs to businesses being incurred closer to home that you have the power to mitigate. In 2015, Port Colborne had the joint-highest property tax rates in Niagara for neighbourhood shops. At $3.88 per square foot, the municipality rate is almost 20% higher than the Niagara average.
On top of this, our members have now brought to our attention the fact that the City is also imposing large fees on businesses wishing to erect signs or small displays of goods on public sidewalks.
While some other municipalities in Niagara do charge permit fees for sidewalk encroachment, I can find none as high as Port Colborne’s. St. Catharines charges $117. Thorold levies $100 for a ground or portable sign, with a $50 annual renewal. Lincoln charges $75 for an application. Niagara-on-the-Lake only requests $30 a year for a sandwich board. Niagara Region allows temporary signs of a reasonable size without a permit at all on regional streets and roads. Pelham – tied with Port Colborne for highest shop property taxes – allows sandwich boards on public property without a permit, subject only to reasonable restrictions and to a requirement for $2 million in liability coverage.
The current situation is a disincentive to do business in Port Colborne. Considering the level of property taxes and other fees, we urge council to bring its fees and requirements into line with those of other municipalities in Niagara. We feel that the proposal to waive the Encroachment Application Fee, to charge a $25 annual permit fee, and to require $2 million in liability insurance is entirely reasonable. On behalf of the business community, we ask that you grant this request. Thank you.