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Windsor may establish commercial development district to boost business growth

<p lang="en-US">The newly sworn in Windsor town council pose for a photo following the ceremony on Oct. 25, 2016. Pictured are, from left, Laurie Murley, John Bregante, Mayor Anna Allen, Shelley Bibby, and Jim Ivey.</p>
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WINDSOR, N.S. – By lowering the tax burden for newly developed or renovated properties, Windsor council is hoping to spur growth in the town.

During a committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 14, councillors discussed the idea of establishing a commercial development district (CDD) zone within the town limits.

A CDD would ease the commercial tax burden on properties that suddenly see their assessed value rise after a major renovation.

Bill 177, which establishes the framework for setting up a CDD, was recently approved by the provincial government

The bill authorizes municipalities to create a bylaw that would phase in, over a period of 10 years, an increase to the taxable assessed value of certain commercial or contaminated properties located within the CDD.

Chief Administrative Officer Louis Coutinho gave an example of how it could work.

“Let's say someone buys a property assessed at $55,000 and they go and make some tremendous renovations to it, rebuild it, and now its assessed worth is $250,000. They will be taxed on $250,000,” Coutinho said.

“Bill 177 allows council to spread that (tax burden increase) over 10 years, even though they would be assessed at the higher level,” he explained.

“This is good news for business in our area, because now there’s an opportunity to take dilapidated buildings like the Stephens and Yeatons building and do something with that and get a phased tax rebate on that over 10 years,” he added.

Council is now considering what area would be classified as CDD.

Coun. Jim Ivey said he’d like to see the CDD expanded beyond the downtown core in order to benefit more businesses.

“There’s a couple of businesses (outside the core), an inn, a restaurant on King, a restaurant on O’Brien, a funeral home on Albert, but that doesn’t line up with the business territory of the town centre, Windsor Business Enhancement Society, et cetera,” Ivey said. “It just seems to me that we’re focused on the core, which is appropriate, but there are a couple of pockets that are missing.”

Ivey asked if it would make sense to hold a public consultation session to see what the community would like.

Coun. John Bregante, who said he was eager to get things moving, made a motion to approve the recommendation.

“I think this is a great step forward. This bill has been in the works for three or four years and we’re finally starting to see some headway,” Bregante said, adding by moving it forward, the town will “see some revitalization within the downtown core.”

Council approved the Planning and Advisory Committee’s recommendation to establish a CDD zone in the Town of Windsor and directed staff to begin the process of amending the Municipal Planning Strategy to establish the zone. The boundaries of the CDD district zone still depends on further discussions with the business community and developers.

Coutinho said the boundaries of the CDD were originally thought to only envelope the downtown, waterfront and areas including Mill Island but it may include all undeveloped lands owned by the town and others.

Staff have also been directed to work on a communications plan to inform property owners and other interested parties on what Bill 177 and the establishment of a CDD will mean before the first reading is passed by council.

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