In a city with unused, underused and misused commercial and industrial properties, you would think that the local Chamber of Commerce would make it a priority to work with their membership and local government, which provides intelligent zoning, to deal with such issues.
The Chamber Commerce of Brantford-Brant, recently summarized its main objectives in the Brantford Expositor. The chronic problem of unused, underused and misused properties in Brantford was not on the list.
Here is the list with our comments:
“Brantford City Council to honour scheduled property tax reductions previously committed to bringing business taxes in line with provincial guidelines.” This begs the question: Are residential taxes inline with provincial guidelines?
“Changes in city boundaries to increase the available lands available for development.” The boundary adjustment proposal is just that, a proposal. Why not focus on the many economic development opportunities within the current city boundary?
“Highway corridor between Brantford 403 and Cambridge 401.” While a few improvements have been made to Brantford’s crumbling roads and other dated infrastructure, these remain a priority.
“Extend the Lakeshore Go service to Brantford.” Is the city a bedroom community or is the Chamber interested in making Brantford a business centre in its own right?
While some of these objectives are laudable, dealing with unused, underused and misused properties without reliance on government is the economic development priority in Brantford.
At a recent public meeting to discuss the unused, underused and misused properties along the Colborne St. East corridor citizens asked: why push for a boundary adjustment when vacancies exist along Colborne St. East and throughout the city?
What is needed here is:
1) straightforward, intelligent zoning that is consistent with the city as a whole, i.e., maintain a balance of industrial, commercial, residential, cultural and institutional needs and wants
2) find a private sector purpose for vacant buildings
3) find a private sector purpose for vacant lands
4) issue building permits only for properties identified under steps #2 and #3
Let’s remember, the deterioration of downtown Brantford was not engineered; the downtown was not hollowed out on purpose. It occurred because of the lack of the above four steps.
So, what will be filled first: the new outdoor mall at Wayne Gretzky Pkwy and Grey St.,
or vacancies 3 blocks away in the Mohawk Plaza, (one of Brantford’s first outdoor malls) 655 Colborne St. East
and former Wendy’s, 656 Colborne St. East?
A cautionary note: A task force must ensure that it does not balloon into a bureaucratic sinkhole for tax dollars. Remember the South Side of Colborne Street Task Force?
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