St. Catharines council will not reconsider incentive application for Port Dalhousie development

CKTB - News - City Hall

St. Catharines council will not be reopening the debate around a tax incentive program for a development in Port Dalhousie.

Last month councillors rejected the application for a rebate through the Brownfield Tax Increment Finance program for redevelopment work to transform the former Lincoln Fabrics building into luxury condos.

Several local organizations and groups spoke during last night's debate including representatives for the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce and the developer.

St. Patrick's Ward Councillor Mat Siscoe questioned fellow councillors about what criteria the project failed to meet under the BTIF program. "This is a brownfield. It qualifies under the criteria that we've laid out." He said. "This is the same program that will be accessed, at some point God willing, by whoever purchases the GM properties. And the dollar value in that case will be significantly higher than this as well. The question that we have to ask if we don't reconsider this is why would anybody take that risk? Why would anybody take that risk of coming into the community if they believe that the incentive programs that we've put forward aren't actually going to be there, or aren't going to be there in the form that we've laid them out."

Meanwhile, Port Dalhousie Councillor Bruce Williamson took a different view. "Our role, we have to remember, is to serve the common good which is about making decisions which benefit the best interests of the greatest number of people." Williamson added, "This program does the exact opposite by taking money out of the pockets of the many and giving it to a private single private interest. A major change since this policy was adopted is the local real estate market, which has changed dramatically. We are no longer desperate for development and it is no longer a competition, certainly not one that requires heavy subsidies."

Council needed a two-thirds majority to reconsider the previous decision. They did not get it with 8 councillors voting to reopen the issue and five voting against. (For: Councillors Karrie Porter, Matt Harris, Joe Kushner, Lori Littleton, Bill Phillips, Mat Siscoe, Sal Sorrento, Walter Sendzik. Against: Dawn Dodge, Carlos Garcia, Greg Miller, Kevin Townsend, Bruce Williamson)

After the vote was cast, Mayor Walter Sendzik said,"To the applicant, I apologize on my behalf...It's an unfortunate decision of council today."

Reaction on Twitter was split last night with Councillor Miller writing, "Thank you to all who have reached out over the last few weeks. The community voice has been heard once again."

Siscoe wrote, "What a bad decision by Council. My head hurts."

Hugo Chesshire, Director of Policy & Government Relations at the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce also responded on Twitter. "A poor decision from STC Council that endangers the business growth and job creation that citizens want and casts a long shadow over future affordable housing development, based on the mistaken idea that a rebate is the same as a gift."

When CKTB's Matt Holmes asked President of the Port Dalhousie Harbour Club Sheldon D. Rosen what he would tell people about developing in St. Catharines he said, "There are a couple of new people on council and a couple of old people on council who just don't get it. They don't understand the rules of fair play and they don't understand the long term benefits to the city that being forward thinking can bring to them. This is not a good place to do business."

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