A community improvement plan is coming for Brussels - Feb. 16, 2017
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Huron East Council has approved the creation of a community improvement program (CIP) for Brussels. The plan will create guidelines and best practices for building design in the community, as well as financial incentives for businesses in the downtown core.
Economic Development Officer Jan Hawley and Huron County Planner Claire Dodds presented the basics of a CIP to council at its Feb. 7 meeting and explained why one is so necessary for downtown Brussels.
The CIP, Dodds said in her presentation, can help place financial incentives in order to focus public attention on local priorities and municipal initiatives; target areas in transition or in need of repair, rehabilitation and redevelopment; facilitate and encourage community change in a co-ordinated manner and stimulate private sector investment through municipal incentive-based programs.
Dodds also pointed out that supporting small businesses and industry, with a focus on vibrant downtowns, was one of the strategic directions listed in the municipality’s economic development strategic plan for 2016 to 2019.
Community improvement plans, Dodds pointed out, are not a new planning tool. They have been in place for decades, but have become widespread throughout the province in recent years.
She said that to see the best results, the plan should be specific and focus on a concentrated area. For example, she presented a map of the village and suggested a starting point of an area including from the block north of Orchard Lane on Turnberry Street to one block south of Flora Street.
A concentrated project area, she said, provides a greater return on investment for municipal dollars. Hawley said that improvements to buildings’ façades are the most common grants made by community improvement plans.
The plan will help unite the community of Brussels in appearance and in its goals, she said. The plan won’t tell anyone how to design their buildings, but there will be suggestions and incentives to ensure that all businesses within the community are on the same page.
Hawley said she felt the CIP was important with the development ongoing in Brussels with Brian Morton’s barn project, which will house a number of initiatives, including a year-round home for the Brussels Farmers’ Market.
Councillors liked the idea and were in favour of authorizing it. The plan, however, has yet to be drafted. The motion on the floor at the Feb. 7 meeting, Hawley said, would simply authorize the two departments to begin work on a plan that would then be presented to council once it has been completed.
With council authorization in place, the next step will be a community consultation meeting in downtown Brussels next month.
After that first meeting with community members and Brussels stakeholders, Hawley and Dodds will work to prepare the plan in March and then they will circulate it for comment.
Hawley and Dodds will then present the final draft of the plan to council and get direction ahead of holding a public meeting. After that meeting, revisions would be made and council will adopt it, hopefully in April or May.
Council authorized the pair to work towards the development of a community improvement plan for Brussels, with public consultation and public meetings to follow.