Comment 28005

By Bob Bratina (anonymous) | Posted December 29, 2008 at 11:20:17

I'm not sure what you mean by "obvious political reasons". Our problems begin with the fact that the current Council structure does not facilitate good decision-making. What goes on is a kind of power struggle to see who gets to do what with the tax money, thereby enhancing one's own profile with the electorate, thereby hopefully ensuring your re-election. The classic example is the east end bridge from the Rennie Street dump across the Queen Elizabeth Highway to the Beach trail. What would enlightened businessmen do with a $14 million dollar grant and an annual operating cost of $300,000? (remembering that a useable bridge could be built to cross the QEW at Rennie Street for $1 million, according to our staff). How does this middle-of-nowhere investment move us forward?

With regard to incentives...absolutely. We generated $200 million in development Downtown with the expenditure of 1.4 million dollars...the interest portion of our interest-free loans program, along with our "Enterprize Zone Tax Incentive Program." Simply by reducing some of the banks' exposure the projects went ahead, such as Staybridge Suites, Chateau Royale, Spallaci's Terraces on King, Rebecca lofts, etc. etc. The Tax Incentive program works like this. For each grant application approved, the program authorizes a five-year grant, in an amount not exceeding the increase in municipal realty taxes as a direct result of the development or redevelopment of the land and/or building. Approved grants are 100 percent of the municipal realty tax increase during the first year, 80 percent in year two, 60 percent in year three, 40 percent in year four and 20 percent in year five. The new Simpson Wigle office building on Hunter at James South is the most recent example of that program, turning a zero-assessment vacant public health building into beautifully renovated professional offices which will generate $140,000 a year in taxes.

So we do have some magic bullets. Our problem right now is the stretch of King Street between Catherine and James, beginning with the vacant Connaught Hotel. That's a much higher priority than the Lister Block, upon which we will spend over the next 20 years $44 million dollars for 60,000 square feet of office space. This is flat-out tax spending, with no application of incentives, which could have been used to create a much more useful residential-loft building.

The business community understands this. The leaders on Council either don't understand or don't want to know.

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