Wednesday, July 9, 2008

You Can Help Plan Pelham's Downtowns

While venturing downtown Parry Sound on a recent family vacation, I noticed some significant improvements over previous years. I wondered what prompted the changes.

I found the answer in the Spring 2008 edition of "Sideroads of Parry Sound & Area." Maybe you will find a connection to Pelham's downtowns.

You see, the Town of Parry Sound introduced a Facade Improvement program in 2006 as one of the key strategies of their Downtiwn Revitalization Plan. Because of the history of Parry Sound, the program includes a marine heritage theme. And, in recognition of their Georgian Bay works, the program uses a colour pallet from the Group of Seven.

The objective of the program is to encourage property owners and tenants to improve the look of their buildings and businesses. The special program was not offered in 2007, but with the addition of $100,000 in funding from the municipality, it returned in 2008 for qualified applicants.

This Facade Improvement Grant provides limited funding for architectural plans, site plan drawings, facade improvements on the primary and secondary sides of the building, sign improvements, exterior lighting improvements, and landscape improvements. It is a matching grants program where 50% of these costs are covered up to various maximums -- everywhere from $200 for signs to $10,000 for primary facades. In two years, a total of 11 properties have taken advantage of various program features.

Finally, the Parry Sound program also includes a property tax increment grant. It grants up to five years of relief from any property tax increases which directly result from facade improvements.

So, you might ask, what does the Parry Sound program mean for Pelham?

Well, as you may have read in our local papers, Pelham recently sponsored two open houses about our downtowns. The first was last night with Fonthill's downtown as a primary focus. The second will be tonight at the Old Pelham Town Hall and focusing mainly on Fenwick's downtown.
These open houses are just the start of a public input process in the development of something called a Community Improvement Plan for Pelham's downtowns. I am told that there will be another two sessions before the CIP is finalized and presented to Council in the fall.

Will the plan propose incentives like those offered in Parry Sound? That's up to you and others providing feedback and direction. It will also be up to Council since any incentive programs will need to be funded by your tax dollars.