Tweaks made to grants to support businesses in Grey Highlands

Experience has led to some changes to the Community Improvement Grants available from Grey Highlands.

The municipality is looking to provide an incentive to invest in upgrades, by using matching grants and other benefits.

The program began in 2019, and was last changed in February of 2022, by changing intake dates and criteria.

A report from Michele Harris, director of community and economic development, said the latest changes are in response to the demand for the program, the priorities in the business community and financial considerations.

The Community Improvement Plan covers a wide range of grant categories. In 2021, council selected six to prioritize in last year’s granting: facade, building and signage; COVID retrofits; start-up leasehold improvements; conversion or expansion of vacant buildings; accessibility and finally landscaping and parking updates.

The COVID retrofit will be removed. Six grants, totalling about $1,800, were approved. The last was in December, 2021.

A redundant grant on Development Charges for secondary suites was removed. Neither Grey Highlands nor the county now charge DCs for them.

An unused grant which delayed the tax hit from increased value due to renovations is also being dropped. It lasts 10 years, but council decides funding annually, which was a mis-match.

A change is being made to allow businesses to apply at any time, instead of having two applications deadlines each year.

In 2021, council limited the annual amount given to any one business to $10,000, and to three applications over five years with a cap of $20,000.

These changes were made after disproportionate allocations in the previous years, and since then the applications have evened out.

Each year, Grey Highlands budgets $25,000 for the program. This year will be the last of five years in which Grey County has provided $20,000 to fund the local CIP. The cut-off to spend the County money is the end of 2025.

As of August, 2023, there is $35,000 of the $45,000 remaining in the total budget.

If business owners buy a portable accessibility ramp, there is a program to cover up to $250, with no limit on the percentage of the purchase price that is covered. This grant was added last July.

A new initiative is a 20 percent rebate of local municipal taxes on designated heritage properties, which meet a set criteria, validated by Heritage Grey Highlands. This still awaits final approval by council. The school portion will also be reduced, to be compensated by the province, the report said.

The municipality will also be asking the County to match that with a 20 percent rebate of the County taxes as well. The purpose is to assist owners of the properties to meet costs for upkeep and maintenance of their older, significant buildings. There must be a conservation agreement in place, and the building must be kept in good condition.

There are seven designated heritage properties that would be eligible.

The tax rebate doesn’t county to the CIP limit for funding. Right now, it is available for a two-year period, and depends on the program being renewed by the municipality.

M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Flesherton Advance


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