After previous advocacy work from the GNCC, Port Colborne City Council directed staff to review the sidewalk encroachment fee schedule in the city. On top of the highest property taxes for neighbourhood stores anywhere in Niagara, these fees were making it hard to do business in the city. The staff report recommended that the fee schedule remain unchanged. However, after a second presentation from GNCC Policy & Government Relations Manager Hugo Chesshire, council voted to reject that report and passed a motion waiving the fees until a full review of fees, policies and bylaws is completed.
This fee waiver will be of significant help to stores in Port Colborne, who will now be able to advertise and put out small displays of goods on public sidewalks without having to pay fees to the city for the privilege. On behalf of the business community in Port Colborne, special thanks go to Councillors Bea Kenny and Barbara Butters for supporting this initiative and their local business community.
Read the presentation below:
Address to Port Colborne City Council
August 9th, 2016 – Sidewalk Encroachment Permits
Good evening Mr. 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. Thank you for having me back to address you again tonight; it is a pleasure to be here and to represent the interests of the business community at your deliberations. I have spoken already on the matter before you tonight, so I shall be brief.
Last time I spoke, I observed that the fees for sidewalk encroachments were onerous on top of the taxes that Port Colborne levies on neighbourhood shops, the highest in Niagara. I spoke in support of the delegation made by the Downtown Business Improvement Area, which asked you to reconsider these fees. City staff have now completed their report on the matter, and I wish to comment upon it.
The report recommends that the existing fee structure remain in place until new policies can be reviewed and approved. This is not a policy that will foster business growth and prosperity in Port Colborne. You have heard from myself, from the BIA, and from local business owners that this fee structure is negatively impacting local businesses.
On the last page of the report, you will see a comparison between various municipalities and their fee structures. However, as you are aware, user fees and taxes represent opposite ends of a policy spectrum – one end of which holds that people should pay government for the services they use; the other, that government services are for the common good with a cost that should be shared amongst everyone.
The current structure in Port Colborne attempts to occupy both ends of this spectrum at once, by having substantial fees and by also having high taxes. As I stated when I was last here, Port Colborne’s property taxes for neighbourhood shops are the highest in Niagara. For example, you might say that Port Colborne’s encroachment fees are $290 less than Niagara-on-the-Lake’s, which sounds good until one realises that the owner of a small 1,000-square-foot store in Port Colborne will pay $780 more per year in taxes than if they had opened that store in Niagara-on-the-Lake instead.
The average municipality in Niagara will charge $93 more than Port Colborne for a sidewalk encroachment, where permitted, although when Wainfleet is excluded this falls to only $17. The average municipality will also levy $600 less, per year, on a 1,000-square-foot store.
In municipal property taxes, Port Colborne is tied with Pelham for the highest levy on neighbourhood shops in Niagara. A comparison with Pelham is the only true apples-to-apples comparison on this list, but you will note that Pelham does not charge sidewalk encroachment fees.
On behalf of your business community, I urge you not to continue with the current fee structure. If a review of by-laws, procedures, and fee structures is pending, I believe that the best thing to do and the best encouragement for the growth of businesses and jobs in Port Colborne is to waive these fees in the interim. Thank you.