City committee OKs fee cuts aimed at boosting small businesses

City Hall

A city committee has given the green light to changes that would make it easier and less expensive to have properties rezoned for certain types of businesses.

The agricultural and rural affairs committee voted Thursday to lower application fees for a range of business rezoning requests ​– a move endorsed by the city’s Economic Recovery Task Force to help small businesses in the wake of COVID-19. 

Under the new rules, a number of requests that had been defined as “major” would now be classified as “minor.” According to a city staff report, the change would save applicants an average of about $9,500.

The report said the city’s economic development staff reviewed a range of applications from the past five years and found more than a dozen instances where rezoning requests did not require the amount of time and technical study to be classified as “major.” 

The report gave a number of examples of applications that would be considered “minor” under the proposed amendment, including allowing an animal care establishment and animal hospital on two existing commercial development sites, a retail store within an existing rural commercial development and a medical facility, office and instructional facility for potential future tenants within an existing community centre.

To meet the definition of “minor,” the proposed businesses must be located in existing buildings that have not been expanded within the past two years. They cannot be located in residential zones and cannot include uses such as bars, nightclubs, service stations and car dealerships.

Based on recent history, the city says the proposed changes would cost it about $25,000 a year in lost revenue from fees, adding the projected shortfall “will not have a great impact” on its budget.

Full council will consider the proposed amendment at its next meeting on Oct. 14.