The District of Lake Country is moving ahead with plans to try and attract more development on its Main Street with the unveiling of a development incentive strategy that is designed to encourage multi-storey and mixed use development of Lake Country’s Main Street.
Lake Country council gave three readings to its new bylaw at its Feb. 19 council meeting, laying the groundwork for a plan that will give developers tax breaks ranging from three to 10 years, with the hopes that potential developers will build three to four storey buildings with mixed use, such as a rental units on the top floor.
The length of the proposed tax exemptions will depend on the type of development (see sidebar) with the key aspect being the building’s height, so as to bring more people to Main Street.
An example, according to Ryan Roycroft, District of Lake Country economic development manager, would be a business that has its office located on the ground floor and space for rent on the top floor.
“The intent of the incentive package is to encourage developers to build more space than they otherwise would,” said Roycroft. “The (tax exemptions) would allow them to carry unrented office space for longer without incurring costs. They would have a longer period of time to find tenants.”
The largest incentives under the new plan are for attraction or conference hotels. Roycroft said the hotels are the most likely to act as a substantial economic driver on Main Street, drawing large numbers of customers for other businesses to the area.
The tax incentive plan still needs to meet final approval from council, although it received plenty of support when laid out by Roycroft. The bylaw passed its first three readings at the council meeting and was applauded by council.
“I’m excited to see this moving ahead,” said Coun. Jamie McEwan. “I think in Lake Country we have a unique opportunity to undergo revitalization. In a lot of areas we are starting from scratch. These incentives may be small but it’s a gesture to attract the development we want on Main Street. It’s essential for the community. In the short term we may lose some tax revenue but in the long term this is a huge investment in our community.”
Along with the tax incentive plan, Lake Country council is also being asked to amend a previous district bylaw that saw a density fee levied on buildings that were over three storeys in height.
Roycroft said the fee sends a mixed message to Main Street developers, who on one hand are being told the district wants three to four storey structures but are hit with an additional fee for the taller buildings.
Roycroft also told council that one of the concerns of providing tax exemptions is the loss of tax revenue in the short-term. But he said despite the short-term deferral of new tax revenue the overall tax revenue generated by the area may be greater in the longer term as a result of the incentives to build more storeys.