Leadership and commitment on the part of local political leaders has been an essential part of all BIA success stories across North America.
The Board and municipal Council must work together to achieve their common goal of a strong and vibrant business community.
The municipality can contribute to the BIA in many ways, including:
- assisting local business leaders to get started and participating on an on going basis
- providing a supportive growth management and development strategy
- providing financial and technical resource assistance
- instituting public improvements
- providing encouragement and support to BIAs and their staff
- raising awareness of BIAs among municipal staff and the public at large
Initiation and Participation
Once a BIA is established, Council appoints members to the Board of Management. The BIA presents a list of nominees to their general membership for a vote prior to submitting these nominees for Council approval. This practice ensures that the general membership is consulted on the Board’s composition.
Council participation has immediate and direct benefits for the BIA. For example, appointing a Councillor on the Board and the direct involvement of the Council in appointing other Board members provides a measure of authority and credibility to the BIA. In addition, a direct link is established with the most important local decision-making body. This allows for joint planning between the BIA and the Council that can maximize the effective use of the BIA budget. Finally, the direct link with and support from Council increases the potential for the BIA to secure assistance both from the municipality and from other levels of government.
In turn, the Council representative would keep the BIA informed of pertinent Council matters. For example, the Councillor may inform the Board of meetings that should be attended, when issues of concern will be dealt with by committees or Council as a whole, and how to get the most out of their relationship with the municipality and Council.
Specific Roles of Municipal Council
In addition to providing an atmosphere conducive to economic and business development and providing general support for BIAs, the municipal Council has several important official roles with respect to a BIA.
Creating the BIA
The Town of Richmond Hill established the Board of Management for the Business Improvement Area in 2009.
Council cannot pass a bylaw establishing the BIA if it receives objections to the bylaw, and if the objections meet certain conditions.
Establishing the Board of Management
The Board of a BIA is also established by municipal bylaw. The Board of a BIA is composed of one or more directors appointed by the municipality, with the remaining directors selected by a vote of the membership and then formally appointed by the municipality. Generally, the Council member representing the ward in which the BIA is located is appointed to the Board.
Determination of tenancy
A tenant may make a request to the municipal clerk to verify membership.
The Board prepares annual estimates (budget). The budget reflects the priorities and needs of the BIA as determined by the Board and membership. The Board is required to hold one or more meetings of the members of the improvement area for a discussion of the proposed budget. Once the budget is finalized, it is submitted to Council for approval. The budget is financed by BIA levies that are collected by the municipality. Funds are then disbursed by the municipality to the Board. In addition, the municipally appointed auditor is responsible for auditing the financial accounts of the Board and is free to inspect any and all relevant documents held by the Board.
Altering the Boundaries of a BIA
On occasion, property owners and businesses beyond the borders of a BIA request inclusion. In other instances, these property owners and businesses can be considered to be a natural extension or growth of a pre-existing BIA community and they may be invited to join the BIA.
By the same measure, parts of a BIA may no longer feel an affinity towards their BIA. In these cases, the BIA may need to alter its boundaries.
The legislation includes a mechanism for changing the boundaries of a BIA. Members in the original area, and potential members in an expanded area (if there is one), are notified about and may object to proposed new boundaries.
Similarly to the case when a BIA is originally created, a municipal Council cannot pass the proposed BIA bylaw if, within 60 days of mailing the original notices, the clerk receives objections which:
- are signed by at least one-third of the persons entitled to notice; and,
- the objectors meet the applicable conditions. Generally stated, these are responsibility by objectors for at least one-third of the general local municipality levy on the prescribed classes (i.e. industrial and commercial properties) in either the existing or proposed BIA areas.
Note – as other requirements apply and the above is a summary, for accuracy users may wish to refer to the legislation and section 210 in particular.
It is the responsibility of the municipal clerk to establish if the conditions applicable to objections to the BIA bylaw are met.
When a municipality expands or redefines the boundaries of a BIA, the Board of Management for the area would continue as the Board of Management for the altered area. It is often prudent to seek Board representatives from the new area in the case of a BIA expansion.