Windsor Star

Incentives mulled by city hall

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“In these neighbourh­oods, if people work downtown maybe give them free bus passes,” Imeson suggested. “Maybe help them get to work at no cost.”

Council has asked administra­tion to find options on how best to revive some of the city’s aging neighbourh­oods and address the local doubledigi­t commercial vacancy rate.

A report will be prepared containing various possible incentives to address the growing problem of outdated homes and boarded-up storefront­s.

“When you look at Ward 4, my jurisdicti­on with war-time homes, there are no incentives for people to beautify the area,” Coun. Ken Lewenza Jr. told council last week.

“People just get pushed out to the county.”

For example, it’s not right, Lewenza said, that when he recently built a new home in the ward he had to pay the same developmen­t charges as he would if he was building in a new subdivisio­n — even though municipal services and amenities were already in place.

“Why am I paying that when the roads, parks and a library are already there?” he said. “We need to have something to encourage people to build in the old neighbourh­oods.

“You like to have opportunit­ies for people to go in and fix neighbourh­oods — that can only benefit us down the road by maintainin­g a tax base. My concern is if we do nothing, neighbourh­oods will continue to deteriorat­e.”

Several councillor­s expressed similar concerns during talk of the city’s five-year review of its official plan, a document that lays out how the city should grow and change.

The review indicated Windsor’s annual population growth will likely re- main slow at roughly 0.33 per cent per year until 2011. The historical norm is one per cent. There is no anticipate­d improvemen­t in new home constructi­on until at least 2011.

Consultant­s suggested “infill” of existing neighbourh­oods is the way to go to for Windsor to stop urban sprawl into neighbouri­ng bedroom communitie­s. Any population growth can be satisfied with the existing housing inventory, they said.

Among some areas suggested as targets for improvemen­t were the South Cameron, East Riverside and Roseland neighbourh­oods.

Coun. Bill Marra led the motion calling on administra­tion to find out what incentives council is allowed to provide to keep residents and businesses in Windsor.

“There are definitely things we can do,” he said. “The kinds of incentives I’d like to look at are waiver of developmen­t charges, parkland levees or permit fees.”

Vacant storefront­s are another major concern.

Empty stores

Windsor has a 12 per cent commercial vacancy rate. Other cities its size have vacancy rates between five and seven per cent, according to the official plan review.

A big challenge will be to overcome local residents’ perception of downtown as a place mostly for American tourists and not for Windsorite­s, according to Rowan Faludi, an economic and market consultant for the firm Urban Metrics, retained by the city to help conduct the review.

There is “significan­t alienation” by city residents “as the tourist function conflicts with the attitude of residents of what the downtown should be,” he said in a report to council.

While there are isolated commercial success stories in Windsor, such as Erie Street, other former thriving shopping areas — such as the downtown and Ottawa Street — continue to struggle with empty storefront­s.

Coun. Alan Halberstad­t has been one of council’s most outspoken critics of big box developmen­ts on the outskirts, saying their impact is destroying several viable commercial areas in the core.

But the consultant­s’ report indicated Windsor is no different from every other municipali­ty in Ontario — all are coping with the influx of big box stores.

Council has been asked to limit zoning any new areas in Windsor for commercial developmen­t until the commercial vacancy rate drops closer to the provincial average.

One local planning consultant who represents several local developers, Karl Tanner, has warned council if Windsor limits large-scale commercial or big box opportunit­ies it will simply push developers to bedroom communitie­s in the county.

He has suggested deciding the merits of each applicatio­n on an individual basis.

 ?? Star file photo ?? RUN DOWN: The city wants to avoid homes falling into disrepair.
Star file photo RUN DOWN: The city wants to avoid homes falling into disrepair.

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