Chamber presents 2021 tourism budget plan
The Houston and District Chamber of Commerce has presented its 2021 budget plan to the District in which it is seeking an increased grant from the District over last year. From $71,980 last year, the Chamber is seeking a $1,441.03 increase to $73,421.03 for 2021. That would aid the Chamber in a spending plan of $97,169.03. A federal grant for students and a provincial support grant amounting to a total of $23,748 would help it meet that spending target. There would be a projected small surplus of $282.75. Wages and benefits would amount to $76,086.06. The chamber request has been included in the District’s draft base operating budget with a final decision yet to be made by council.
Canada Day 2021
Council has authorized staffers to apply for a federal grant in support of community-based celebrations for the period from June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, and July 1, Canada Day.
Although past grants have been small in the range of $800 to $1,400, they do subsidize the District’s own budget for special events.
With Canada Day 2020 celebrations in Jamie Baxter Park cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing limit of 50 people being allowed to gather in one place, leisure services director Tasha Kelly told council there’s been a strong urge from the community to hold a Canada Day fireworks display next year.
“A fireworks display is a safe event which meets physical distancing and is inclusive of all community members,” she wrote in a memo to council.
Pending final details and approvals, such a display could cost between $5,000 and $10,000, Kelly added.
To finance such an event, Kelly also asked council to consider an increase of $5,000 to $10,000 in the special events base budget for next year.
Council agreed to add $10,000 for a Canada Day fireworks display in the draft base operating budget with a final decision yet to be made.
Library request holds the line
The Houston Public Library is asking the District of Houston for the same grant amount next year that it received this year.
That amount, $122,000, would provide the majority of the library’s proposed 2021 budget of $176,082, documents submitted by the library indicate.
The library also receives a provincial grant and earns additional income from membership fees, fines, book sales, room rentals and grants for specific activities.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected all library functions, a report presented to council at its Nov. 3 meeting indicated with programs, events and meeting room bookings cancelled in March and the library closed March 18 followed by curbside service March 26, a three-day a week re-opening in July and six-day a week service beginning this month.
It also boosted its online service and added a WiFi hotspot to boost the signal for people parked in its parking lot.
It also faced the challenge of not being able to host fundraisers, losing Canfor Room rental fees and limiting the number of people in the building at any one time.
The library is purchasing refurbished laptops for lending and has been holding small in-person craft events.
The library request has been included in the District’s draft base operating budget with a final decision yet to be made by council.
Building height request approved
M Brown Contracting operating at 1905 Vriend Road has been given approval to construct a shop with a height higher than normally allowed.
Its plan for a building 10 metres tall needed a permit variance because a District bylaw limited heights for accessory buildings to no more than 6.4 metres.
Council approved the variance Nov. 3.
The company said it needed a new building because one now being used was in a condition that it was not satisfactory for its equipment storage and other needs.
Building facade grant request approved
The District is applying to the Northern Development Initiative Trust for $20,000 that would then be provided to help local businesses improve the outer appearance of their buildings.
Through the business facade improvement program, qualifying local businesses could receive 50 per cent of their costs, up to a maximum of $5,000 per project.
District economic development officer Maureen Czirfusz listed several advantages of the program, including adding to the attractiveness of structures.
Such a subsidy would encourage local business investment and improvements would increase assessed values and, subsequently, boost the District’s tax base.
Amendment first reading given
The first reading of an amendment to the Official Community Plan took place in which, provided it is approved in subsequent readings and adoption, would permit the property owners at 3600 Viewmount Court to subdivide a portion of the property.
The property owners want to further divide that portion into as many as 13 rural residential lots.
The proposal has also been referred to the Agricultural Land Commission, Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, Office of the Wet’suwet’en, Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Witset First Nation, and the Province of British Columbia.