Desperate to Wrong a Right
Ron Bolin: Nov. 20, 2011
It seems that current revenue objectives and policies set out in our financial plan do not permit tax exemptions to profit making corporations. This makes sense to me, but to our Council, capitalism is a thing of the past and corporate socialism reigns. Council recently gave three readings to “REVITALIZATION TAX EXEMPTION BYLAW 2011 NO. 7143” which, with a fourth reading (perhaps at the farewell old Council Nov.28 Council meeting and these policy changes in effect), will potentially give millions of dollars to private corporations if only they will build or substantially renovate a hotel or motel in Nanaimo.
The current situation where private companies and corporations are forced to compete for business is evidently eminently unfair to our conference centre and this situation calls out for Council action by way of still more subsidies to that too-big folly in the form of hotel tax exemptions.
Of course, providing such subsidies to newbies is eminently unfair to our existing hotels and motels, but as the ads on TV with the kids so poignantly points out, we can forget our old businesses in favour of some new ones.
Is it right and proper that we should venture still further into corporate socialism at public expense? Is it right and proper that we should favour the new to the neglect of the old at public expense? Come to the FPCOW meeting today (Nov. 21) at City Hall and hear our Council and Staff explain why this is a good deal for you and me and our existing hotels and motels. We had better act fast. Other communities may also have bribes on offer.
From the agenda for the Monday, Nov 21, Finance and Policy Committee of the Whole (FPCOW) meeting held in the City Hall Board Room at 4:30pm.
(a) Hotel/ Motel Revitalization Tax Exemption
Staff’s Recommendations: That Council:
1. consider “REVITALIZATION TAX EXEMPTION BYLAW 2011
NO. 7143″ in conjunction with the objectives and policies set out
in its financial plan;
2. direct Staff to modify the revenue objectives and policies to
include the new objectives stated in “REVITALIZATION TAX
EXEMPTION BYLAW 2011 NO. 7143″.
By-law 7143 should have been a major issue in the municipal election. It wasn’t. There appears to be a big majority on Council in support of this initiative. Its major cheereleaders, the mayor and Diane Johnstone, were both re-elected. So the citizens of Nanaimo will get what they deserve – another costly expenditure that is both unnecessary and unfair. You can also be guaranteed that in their desperation to bring about a Conference Centre hotel, City Hall management will cook up an additional way to subsidize it.
The reason this wasn’t a major issue is because it has no immediate effect, and it the real effect is well beyond the understanding of the average voter. Also, the local media supports this issue, so they have done their best to downplay the whole mess.
Clearly, we are asking the electorate to give-up what could be millions of dollars in revenue on the faint hope that this will add, indirectly, 100’s of thousands of dollars to the bottom line of the conference centre.
It’s an insane proposition. How is it that so many reasonable, intelligent people cannot apply reason and intelligence to any decision regarding that conference centre?
Daniel, I believe you are being overly kind “reasonable, intelligent people”…….
One reason this might not have much impact, is if the free market, believes the hotel is still a non-starter regardless of the tax bribe.
It was not made clear yet, how many days per year a condo has to be available to rent, to quality for this program.
It is supposed to bolster the conference centre, but applies to all of Nanaimo, so for example had the new Ramada on Terminal Ave. come onstream after this bylaw, they would benefit as well, and contribute nothing to the expressed purpose.
There is nothing in senior city hall staff, or city councilors backgrounds that even remotely qualifies them to dabble in the business community. If the conference centre didn’t prove that, or the annex, just wait until they get full-on with the water treatment plant.
Nothing new here!
Cable Bay was subsidised through the tax sale & by the water agreement with Harmac.
Free enterprise is wonderful.
David Brown @ 21 November 2011 at 7am said that the “major cheerleaders” of the Revitalization Tax Exemption Bylaw were Mayor Ruttan and Coun. Johnstone.
The Minutes of the Regular Council Meeting of Monday, October 31st, indicate that the Motions to pass first, second and third readings carried unanimously. The draft bylaw item was placed on the Agenda with Staff Report of Thursday, October 27th.
Daniel Appell @ 21 November 2011 at 8am said, “The reason this wasn’t a major issue, (in the election), is because it has no immediate effect, and it the real effect is well beyond the understanding of the average voter.”
Although videos of the Regular Council Meetings of October 31st and November 14th were available on the City’s website the day after each meeting, I had a problem with the fact that they were not televised by Shaw TV, and therefore, many voters, who may not have online access, were not able to view the proceedings of said Council meetings, which were the last two Regular Council Meetings prior to the election on the 19th.
Council candidates were permitted to participate in the last two meetings prior to the election … yet, the electorate on those same evenings, did not have the privilege of viewing the proceedings on Shaw.
There were also several delegations on the Uplands Drive low-barrier housing site and after watching the online video and hearing the performances of a couple of Councillors during the discussion on Coun. Bestwick’s motion at the October 31st meeting, which was: “That Council direct Staff to place the Uplands Site for low barrier housing on hold and submit a review of other site options to Council and the Provincial Government for consideration.” ….. I almost became one of those members of the electorate, who did not vote on the 19th.
I was at the FPCOW meeting last night, and I made a presentation to the council. After the presentation I had a very frank and open discussion with the council. To my amazement and delight everybody on the council participated. All things considered it was one of the better arguments I’ve ever had. This is true even though council ignored my recommendations and all voted in favour of the motion.
It is clearer to me now, that council is not interested in supporting the hotel/motel industry with this measure. What they want, (in fact they are insisting) that the industry support the conference centre, by moving 160 four star rooms to the site behind the conference centre.
Council argues that this move would make the conference centre easier to market. They could also argue that the conference centre makes the 160 rooms easier to market. But the question becomes, does that increased efficiency offset the cost of the move. This is the point of my disagreement with council. I do not believe that cost would be recovered, and since this is not a cost to the city, council doesn’t care.
I would be prepared to argue that the cost of moving the conference centre would be less then moving 160 rooms; and, if the conference centre block could be converted to productive uses that cost could be recovered. The downside of this is that a conference centre move, although better for our economy and better for the hotel/motel industry, would require an mea culpa on the part of the city and a considerable upfront expense. We are well beyond the point where there are easy answers.
The most efficient solution that I can think of is to stop subsidizing the conference centre, allowing it to die a natural death. Then parcel the property into bite size chunks, sell the air rights above the parking level to developers with the proviso that they build or convert to at least one level of retail and three or four layers of residential above. This project could be completed in a number of stages over as much as twenty to thirty years. This would render the site as productive as it possibly could be. I know this sounds difficult, but at least there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Council’s solution just leads us to ever more darkness.
Dan: You did lead a reasonable discussion, though as you say, nothing came of it. I wonder if it would have had even greater effect if you had presented some estimates of costs/savings arising from your model and showed the model you used to derive your estimates. You discussed a model which was not presented. It would be interesting to see your work as it became obvious that neither Council or Staff had more than a few platitudinous anecdotal assertions. This could kick off a conversation about estimates on a rational rather than a anecdotal basis. How about publishing your model and the logic and estimates behind it?
It would take about an hour to explain the model. I would need to display a considerable amount of graphic material to be understood. That was not the venue.
I still believe that if people have a basic grasp of the components of efficiency they can make a reasonable analysis of any urban design problem.
The challenge was that this group and their supporters want something unreasonable. This Hotel/conference centre is wanted to satisfy some emotional part of the brain. And it’s not that they can’t apply reason to this problem, they just don’t want to.
Dan: I note that you talk about selling the air rights to the conference centre garage, just as we did with the commercial space. Is this to keep the land and parking in city hands or is there another reason.
Its because the parking is working reasonably well as a large shared utility. It could easily be converted to a pay as you leave facility. A weaker model for parking is deployed on Terminal Ave. between Commercial and Comox. All the parking is private lots with separate entrances. Shared parking allows for more parking, safer entrance and exit controls and increases the number of people who stop and stay in an area.
Your observation that reason is being overruled by emotion is correct. If you want to make headway, you have to design an emotion based argument, rather than logic….logic….more logic.
When you have Councillors so in love with Nanaimo, they can’t imagine why we can’t become a tourist destination just as we are…….and think downtown IS revitalized…. logic will never win the day.
How do we change the minds of the irrational?
Intill the effects of Lithium were discovered that was an unanswerable question.
The truth is, I am only interested in reframing the problem of urban planning so that the science and discipline of that study can have some influence. We won’t succeed all the time, but if we don’t try we will always fail.
In this city we think of planners as no better then boys playing with building blocks in a sandbox. Of course this is wrong. This always results in expensive mistakes. But how do we change such a profound flaw in our shared mindset, short of spiking the water with Lithium.
This is not a small project. I am trying to change the way we do urban planning in this city. The only thing I have going for me is enough evidence to suggest that I am right. The only right and proper tool I have available to me is argument.
Then again, I am a planner. The only thing required of a real planner is to argue for ever greater efficiency. If this is the role I choose, I can’t complain about the tools available to me.
I offered up a few suggestions as to what to do with the conference centre on my website. The idea of ever chasing the convention business is a poor choice, I am suggesting it be put on the market, and let business folk figure out how to turn it into something that would draw people and truly revitalize downtown.
I suggest if it could be made into a unique arts/retail centre, then ‘They Would Come’
I think your idea of reducing the size of the conference centre and redeveloping a portion of that block is very sound. This would be a very good start to fixing the problem.
Air rights over VICC: for what?
A weaker model for parking is deployed on Terminal Ave. between Commercial and Comox.
What on earth are you talking about!
If you are talking my bailiwick, there are several open parking lots, (i.e. Saint Paul’s etc.), and two parking structures one egressed off Terminal abutting Bastion Bridge and one of similar size egressed off Chapel.
Both are underutilized.
There is no shortage of downtown parking.
There is an acute shortage of downtown activity. Clr Greves campaigned in the March by-election to revitalize downtown and upon election immediately forgot.
If VIU doesn’t move in it’s kaput for downtown for the foreseeable future.
Even ten years ago downtown had a modicum of vitality, but never a parking problem and never any kind of commercial pressure to justify air-rights. The re-done Port Place will have more parking than seagulls.
(BTW dormant air rights over NE Diane Krall Plaza are owned by Paladium: why???).
“I would need to display a considerable amount of graphic material” Good god man don’t waste your time.
Northern sprawl killed downtown and if ever Sandstone and Cable Bay come to life not even the new crabbing pier will help.
The problem with Nanaimo is, as Dr, Foth . . .
. . . used to say Nanaimo, the full Nanaimo (blanco-white belt, blanco-white shoes, straw fedora, check shirt and check trousers).
Lithium in the water??? Wonder if a Lithium drip could be incorporated into the new water treatment plant?? :^)
“. . . reducing the size of the conference centre and redeveloping a portion of that block is very sound.”
Very sound! Are you all out of your mind?
I don’t believe I am out of my mind. Although these days, knowing what to compare sanity with is an ever growing problem.
I do think that having that many square feet of what should be prime downtown real estate being used to accommodate 35 people a day seems like the result of some form of insanity.
Finding more productive uses of this location would seem like the only sane approach.