WHAT’S A BIA?
A BIA is a geographic area in a municipality. Each BIA has a Board of Management; an organization set up to provide promotional and improvement functions. BIA allows local businesses and property owners to join together, with the support of the municipality, to organize, finance and carry out physical improvements as well as promote economic development in their district. The local municipality is responsible for budget approval for the BIA.
The Downtown BIA could be likened to a neighborhood association. We work together towards a main purpose of revitalizing and maintaining a dynamic local neighborhood, and promoting the area as a business and shopping destination. Part of the BIA’s role includes defining an identity for the local community, to further promote Downtown Brantford as a compelling and unique business area. One of our major goals is to encourage both local residents and others to spend dollars in Downtown Brantford, benefiting all businesses and residents in the area. Focusing on revitalization and maintenance creates a cleaner, safer and more appealing atmosphere benefiting all local businesses and service providers. Increased traffic and improved atmosphere in the Downtown core benefits us all. A concerted effort is made on the part of the BIA leadership to develop a network of relations and partnerships among local community groups (schools, churches, citizen groups, etc.) and institutions (Chamber of Commerce, committees of Council, etc.). The key to success lies in establishing and maintaining this network. Through the combined effort of all local community groups the BIA can be truly successful.
WHAT DOES THE BIA DO?
Our mandate is twofold: • To oversee the improvement, beautification and maintenance of municipally owned land, buildings and structures in the Downtown area beyond what is provided by the municipality. • To promote the area as a business and shopping district. In carrying out these responsibilities, we have become involved in numerous activities including: • Marketing – understanding who the customers are, and creating effective promotions to retain and expand the customer base. • Business Recruitment – working with property owners to help ensure available space is occupied and that an optimum business and service mix is achieved and maintainedStreetscape Improvement and Amenities – providing customer-friendly lighting, signage, street furniture, planters, banners and sidewalk treatments. • Seasonal Decorations – creating a unique and pleasant environment for customers and staff of all businesses through the use of decorations appropriate for the current season or holiday. • Special Events – organizing and partnering in special events that highlight the unique attributes of the area and increase customer visits.
COUNCIL AND THE BIA
The Board and municipal Council must work together towards the common goal of a strong and vibrant business community. The municipality contributes to the BIA by: o Assisting with new local business start-ups and participating as they grow. o Providing a supportive growth management and development strategy. o Providing financial and technical resource assistance. o Instituting public improvements. o Providing support to the BIA and their staff. o Raising awareness of the BIA among municipal staff and the public. o Initiation and participation. Initiation and Participation Once a BIA is established the BIA presents a list of nominees to their general membership for a vote, submitting the winning nominees to Council, who then appoints members to the Board of Management. Council’s participation has immediate and direct benefits for the BIA including: o Provides a measure of authority and credibility to the BIA. o Allows for joint planning to maximize the effectiveness of the BIA budget. o Direct link with Council increases potential to secure assistance from the municipality and other levels of government.
In turn, the Council representative would keep the BIA informed of pertinent Council matters (meetings that should be attended, when issues will be brought to committees or Council, how to get the most out of their relationship with the municipality and council).
Roles of Municipal Council
In addition to providing an atmosphere conducive to economic and business development and providing general support for BIAs, the municipal Council has several important official roles with respect to a BIA: Creating the BIA – The city of Brantford established the Board of Management for the Business Improvement Area in 1987. Registering Objections – Council cannot pass a bylaw establishing the BIA if it receives objections to the bylaw if they meet certain conditions. Establishing the Board – The Board of a BIA is established by municipal bylaw. It is composed of one or more directors appointed by the municipality, with the remaining directors selected by a vote of the membership, then formally appointed by the municipality. Generally, the Council member representing the ward in which the BIA is located is appointed to the Board. Determination of Tenancy – A tenant may make a request to the municipal clerk to verify membership. Financial Monitoring – The Board prepares annual estimates (budget) which reflects the priorities and needs of the BIA as determined by the Board. The Board is required to hold one or more meetings of the members for discussion of the proposed budget. Once finalized, the budget is submitted to Council for approval. The budget is financed by BIA levies that are collected by the municipality. Funds are disbursed by the municipality to the Board. The municipally appointed auditor is responsible for auditing the financial accounts of the Board and can inspect all relevant documents.
ALTERING THE BOUNDARIES OF A BIA
On occasion, property owners and businesses beyond the borders of a BIA request inclusion or may be considered a natural extension or growth of a pre-existing BIA community, and may be invited to join. By the same measure, parts of a BIA may no longer feel an affinity towards their BIA. In these cases, the BIA may need to alter its boundaries. The legislation includes a mechanism for changing the boundaries of a BIA. Members in the original area, and potential members in an expanded area (if there is one), are notified about and may object to proposed new boundaries. Similarly to the case when a BIA is originally created, a municipal Council cannot pass the proposed BIA bylaw if, within 60 days of mailing the original notices, the clerk receives objections which: 1. are signed by at least one-third of the persons entitled to notice; and, 2. the objectors meet the applicable conditions. Generally stated, these are responsibility by objectors for at least one-third of the general local municipality levy on the prescribed classes (i.e. industrial and commercial properties) in either the existing or proposed BIA areas. As other requirements apply and the above is a summary, for accuracy users may wish to refer to the legislation and section 210 in particular. It is the responsibility of the municipal clerk to establish if the conditions applicable to objections to the BIA bylaw are met. When a municipality expands or redefines the boundaries of a BIA, the Board of Management for the area would continue as the Board of Management for the altered area. It is often prudent to seek Board representatives from the new area in the case of a BIA expansion.