North Grenville passed a resolution at the council meeting of November 19 to approve all the grant applications for the 2019 Community Improvement Program (CIP). Established in 2013, the goal of the CIP is to encourage property owners in the Rideau-Sanders triangle and along Prescott Street to improve façade, landscaping and signage in the downtown core. The program provides up to $5,000 in matching dollars to successful applicants with an overall budget in 2019 of $50,000.
There were 14 applicants for the program this year, and the Community and Economic Development Advisory Committee (CEDAC) recommended that council approve all of them, which represented just over $47,000 worth of funding. Some of the proposed improvements include repairing garage doors, fixing bricks, painting, the installation of new awnings, replacing siding, windows and doors, and putting in new fencing.
When it came to council approving the grants, one application caused some contention. The CEDAC committee recommended that a new build, valued at $950,000 at 311 Rideau Street, be approved, along with the other 13 projects. Councillor Kristin Strackerjan questioned whether this project fit the criteria for the program, especially since any project that is accepted must be complete within one year. “The requirement that the project will be completed in a year seems unlikely,” she said. “It doesn’t seem to fit with the others.”
Deputy Mayor Jim McManaman, who sits on CEDAC, said the committee felt that the CIP requirements were left vague for a reason, and they felt this new build would be an improvement to the downtown core. “The wording of ‘improvement’ in the area is what drove it forward,” he said.
Director of Planning and Development, Phil Gerrard, confirmed that the wording was purposefully left vague so that a large number of projects could be considered. The Deputy Mayor said that CEDAC also felt that this new build should be included, as all the applications came in under budget anyway. “I don’t want to discourage developers downtown,” he said.
Councillor Strackerjan was not satisfied with the explanation regarding the breadth of the CIP requirements and the fact that the grant applications came in under budget. When prompted, Director of Finance Marcus Hewitt confirmed that, should there be extra money in the CIP budget, the funds could be rolled over to the next year, or added to the municipality’s general surplus. “I think that putting money from CIP to a project like this sets a bad precedent,” Kristin said. “Just because we have $50,000 doesn’t mean we have to maximize that.”
Councillor Strackerjan recommended that the resolution to approve all the 14 CIP applications be amended to exclude the project at 311 Rideau Street; however, she was unable to garner support for the amendment from her fellow council members. In the end, the CEDAC’s original recommendation to approve all the CIP applications was passed, with Councillor Strackerjan and Councillor Barclay voting against the motion, and Deputy Mayor McManaman, Councillor O’Sullivan and Mayor Nancy Peckford voting to support it.