Cape Breton municipality considers renovation tax break for business owners

The tax incentive would apply to commercial property owners in all CBRM's historic downtowns as well as business parks.

Incentive would apply to all CBRM's historic downtowns, plus business parks

Rick McCready is CBRM's senior planner. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality is hoping a new tax incentive could revitalize the municipality's downtowns.

Council is considering a tax break for commercial owners willing to renovate or expand their downtown properties.

The incentive would apply in all of the CBRM's historic downtown cores, including Sydney, North Sydney, Sydney Mines, Whitney Pier, Glace Bay, New Waterford, Dominion and Louisbourg. It would also apply to the region's three business parks: Sydport, Harbourside and Northside.

How it works

Here's an example of how it would work: an owner decides to renovate an old downtown building that's assessed at $100,000. Once the building's fixed up, the assessment rises to $500,000.

The owner would be able to phase in the tax payments on the difference between the old and new assessments — or $400,000 — for up to 10 years, with the tax reduction being no greater than 50 per cent over the period.

The CBRM held open houses in Sydney on Monday to outline the proposal. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

The owner continues to pay the full taxes on the initial $100,000 property. After 10 years, the owner pays the full tax rate on the entire assessed value.

"This is something that's been done in other parts of Canada as a means to spur or kick-start development in certain areas," said the municipality's senior planner, Rick McCready. "In the case of CBRM, we would really like to spur development in all of our downtown cores, as well as our three business parks."

Open houses

The CBRM held open houses in Sydney on Monday to outline the proposal.

Business owner Parker Rudderham owns several properties in downtown Sydney. He's currently renovating one building, the former Smart Shop Place, but said the tax incentive might prompt him to do work on the others.

Parker Rudderham owns several properties in downtown Sydney. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

"You know, the thought is now, if we're going to do something with those, now's probably the time to consider that."

Rudderham said with the McNeil government's promise to move the Marconi campus of the Nova Scotia Community College to downtown Sydney, he's encouraged by the future.

"I think downtown, you know, it's on the verge of a bit of a renaissance," he said. "I think good things are happening."

'Catalyst' for new energy downtown

A director with a national heritage charity that's helping with Sydney's downtown revitalization is enthusiastic about the tax incentive.

"To send that kind of positive message out to people who are trying to make a go of it here, that, yeah, there's a bit of support here, " said Jim Mountain, the director of revitalization with the National Trust of Canada.

Jim Mountain is the director of revitalization with the National Trust of Canada. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

Mountain said the incentive can be a "catalyst" for infusing new energy into a downtown core. As owners improve their buildings, neighbouring businesses often follow suit, bringing new jobs and new investment to the area, he said.

"There's a net gain there to the municipality."

McCready said in Nova Scotia, legislation allowing municipalities to offer such incentives is new. The town of Yarmouth has recently introduced the incentive, and although it's "too early" for results, he said people have responded favourably.

The municipality plans to hold several more open houses before the tax incentive goes back to council for more discussion.

McCready said if it's approved, it could be in place by early summer.

About the Author

Wendy Martin

Reporter

Wendy Martin has been a reporter for nearly 30 years. Her first job in radio was at the age of three, on a show called Wendy's House on CFCB Radio in Corner Brook, N.L. Get in touch at wendy.martin@cbc.ca