The Sechelt Downtown Business Association (SDBA) will be at the next Sechelt council meeting June 7 to propose going back to their old business improvement area (BIA), which they hope Sechelt businesses will again support.
"We were ambitious when we tried the new BIA, and it proved to be a little too ambitious. It's been a bad year for people with taxes for things like sewers and recreation," SDBA president Coral O'Reilly said to a packed meeting of the SDBA last week.
The group is funded solely by the levy imposed through the BIA, which is renewed every five years. This year the BIA was up for renewal and the SDBA proposed an expanded area that included businesses all the way along Wharf Road and those on Mermaid, Dolphin and Medusa Streets.
With the expanded area came a proposed increased levy of $600 per year for those properties zoned commercial and $200 per year for those zoned commercial/recreational. But that levy was defeated at the council table when Sechelt councillors decided there were too many naysayers to let the BIA pass.
Formerly the levy was set at $499 per year across the board and had been well received.
"We're going back to what we know has worked in the past and we're hoping the businesses will support it again," O'Reilly said.
The SDBA acts as the voice of local businesses and serves the needs of business owners by creating events like the Cowrie Street night market set to start this week.
"That was a need identified," said O'Reilly, who notes the night markets will be held every Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. and will include live family entertainment.
It's hoped the night markets will encourage people to come to the downtown core to shop and breathe some life into downtown Sechelt after 5 p.m.
The SDBA is also responsible for putting on the Canada Day, Halloween and Christmas festivities in Sechelt. They are currently working on a tourist map identifying local businesses to tourists on the ferry.
"Who else would take on these initiatives if we were gone?" O'Reilly asked, noting if the next BIA doesn't pass, the SDBA will have to fold.
"We've already lost three really good people after the last failed BIA. It's very disheartening," O'Reilly said.The failed BIA left the SDBA uncertain of their future, as the BIA is their only source of funding. However, after about a week in limbo, Sechelt council authorized a loan to the association for $10,000 to keep them afloat while they work on a new BIA proposal.
Now the SDBA is working to let business owners know about the proposed levy and about what the SDBA does with the money collected.
"We are the people who advocate for the body of businesses in Sechelt," O'Reilly said, noting a pamphlet about the association and what they do will be included in packages about the BIA sent out to local businesses.
Then the District of Sechelt will set up a counter-petition process and business owners will be able to object to the levy if they see fit. But O'Reilly hopes not to go down that road again, saying if this BIA doesn't pass the SDBA will cease to exist.
If all goes well, the SDBA will be looking for more volunteers to help with their events and activities planned for 2006. If you would like to get involved, contact the office at 604-885-9611 and leave a message. The SDBA office is currently closed but O'Reilly is picking up messages and returning phone calls.