ARAC approves changes to encourage new small businesses

CITY HALL – The Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee (ARAC) are proposing a zoning application change that could save businesses $1,000s when doing business with the city.

“ARAC today (Oct. 1) approved changing how the city defines minor zoning amendments in the Planning Fees Bylaw,” city staff released in a statement following the regularly scheduled ARAC meeting. “Minor zoning applications are subject to a lower fee and the change aims to reduce costs for new small businesses and help existing businesses to grow.”

Right now, amendments that seek to add a new permanent land use to a site are automatically classified as major. With the change, some requests to add a single new use could be considered minor.

“The cost of this change to the city would be negligible,” staff said. “If these rules had been in effect for the last five years, city revenues would only have decreased by about $25,000 per year. The impact on individual applicants, however, would be significant, lowering fees by about $9,500 per application.”

The city’s Economic Recovery Task Force endorsed this initiative to help small businesses in the wake of COVID-19. 

The committee also approved a zoning amendment to reduce the required amount of parking for warehouses and industrial buildings.  

“Minimum parking rates for these buildings are calculated based on the assumption that a greater floor area means more employees,” staff said. “With the trend toward automated technologies, however, such buildings might need more floor space to accommodate automated systems but may not require corresponding employee parking.”

Changing the parking rate would permit unused parking areas to be converted to more appropriate uses, such as trees or amenities. The city’s Planning committee will also consider this item at its meeting on Thursday, Oct. 8.  

Recommendations from today’s ARAC meeting will rise to council on Wednesday, Oct. 14. 

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