Town of Smiths Falls scrutinizes $100,000 in CIP grants for various projects

Rideau Heartland Centre on Beckwith Street, Smiths Falls, is seeking financial help for improvements through the town’s CIP funding. Council wants more information before a decision will be made on their request. – Screengrab/Google Maps

Revitalization of downtown properties under the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) of $100,000 was under scrutiny at the May 13 council meeting in Smiths Falls.

Karl Grenke, the town’s manager of development services, brought his report outlining the projects that requested funding through the CIP funding.

Funds for the following properties under Programs 13 and 14 of the Smiths Falls CIP were recommended for:

  • 17-23 Beckwith St. N. (Rideau Heartland Centre) – $5,000 under Program 13;
  • 12 Maple Ave. (Artisan Market) – $22,140.50 under Program 14;
  • 22 Russell St. E. (New Arcade) – $6,023.49 under Program 13 and $45,000 under Program 14;
  • 2 Russell St. E. (The Vault Eatery & Pub) – $346 under Program 13; and,
  • 41 Chambers St. (Food Hub) – $22,000 under Program 14;
  • And under Programs 1 and 2 of the Smiths Falls CIP, funds recommended for the following:
  • 22 Russell St. E. (New Arcade) – $2,000 under Program 2; and,
  • 41 Chambers St. (Food Hub) – $4,241 under Programs 1 and 2.

Coun. Chris McGuire had concerns about the materials (corrugated steel panels) used for the signage proposed at Rideau Heartland Centre.

“I know corrugated steel panels aren’t recommended to be funded,” he said as they’ve been trying to get these out of the downtown with the design guidelines and municipal heritage work. “It seems counterproductive.”

McGuire suggested pausing this application until further information could be gathered.
Coun. McKenna was okay with a potential pause with this application saying they needed to reach out to the proponent “rather quickly,” to find out their response, or if they have a “Plan B.”

Coun. Jay Brennan, who chaired the meeting, said the applicants are more than willing to work with staff on their projects as they are paying for most of the improvements and the town is supplementing their projects through CIP.

McGuire also asked if the town should be subsidizing such projects as a roof and air conditioning at the artisan market (12 Maple Ave.). He’d also like to see staff work with the owners on accessibility at the front of the building at 22 Russell St., as opposed to the back. “Having an entrance at the back is never ideal,” he said.

Grenke said the applicants (22 Russell St.) noted accessible improvements are not feasible at the front, “based on the width of the sidewalk at that location.” He said that speaks to the policy language about the desire for ramps and doorways to be at the front and not at the rear of the building.

The goal of the funding is to improve accessibility by creating barrier-free designs or retrofitting existing areas. It also promotes and encourages attainable housing — excluding utilities if the housing costs are less than 30 per cent of before-tax income.

This program also is to help revitalize existing building stock through improvements to their façades, signage, and accessibility, as well as renovations and restorations to their interiors to meet codes in Ontario (Electrical Safety Code, Ontario Building Code, etc.). It is to be used to preserve traditional and heritage features of the town; enhance walkability, vibrancy, and business vitality through the beautification of the downtown streetscapes and public spaces; and, promote and encourage the redevelopment of vacant, potentially contaminated land (i.e., brownfield properties) in the town to create new public spaces or developments that support the other goals of this CIP, as well as accommodate residential, commercial, and employment growth.

Coun. Jay Brennan, who chaired the meeting, said they might consider tweaking the policy for future applicants.

Grenke said because it’s a fairly new process, they will work with the applicants to gain their feedback, whether successful or not.

All but one (17-23 Beckwith St. N.) recommendation from staff was approved with further discussion needed for the first application.

Find out more about the applications by visiting this link.

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