By David F. Rooney
A survey of 32 downtown members of the Chamber of Commerce shows they overwhelmingly oppose payment of compensation for hardships caused by the Grizzly Plaza Extension Project, but they’re not letting the City entirely off the hook.
“The Chamber of Commerce does not support any legal action or the payment of retroactive compensation (to businesses affected by the recent Grizzly Plaza Extension project),” says John Devitt, the Chamber’s executive director. “The consensus is that this project, while painful, will be worth it for downtown improvement and enhancing business in Revelstoke.”
Having said that, however, Devitt was quick to add in an interview that the business owners he surveyed and interviewed “are very upset with the way communications and public relations surrounding this project were handled by City Hall.”
“The feeling is that they did not make nearly enough or any effort to communicate the effects the project would have on business,” Devitt said.
In the wake of the project’s completion a number of merchants who say they were sevcrely affected by the project demanded cash compensation from the City. While they say that is their starting point for negotiations they also say they will sue if the City refuses to come to an agreement with them. Four businesses — the Village Idiot, the Dollar Dollar Store, Conversations and Valhalla Pure — backed away from the demands in the wake of the very public threat to sue, which was made to Council on July 28.
Devitt said only one of the 32 Chamber members surveyed last week supported the demand for compensation.
Despite their opposition to cash compensation, “all of our downtown members have been impacted in different ways by the construction on Mackenzie Avenue,” Devitt said in a letter he and Chamber President Deenie Ottenbreit jointly signed. The letter was presented to Council at its meeting on Tuesday.
“For some it was direct loss of revenue that has them hanging on to the business by their fingernails. For others it was inconveniencing to senior customers and disabled customers and for other it was a loss of faith in their elected City Councillors.”
This issue hit Chamber members at a time when they “are reeling from a seven per cent increase in Municipal Business Taxes during a global recession.” The tax increase was imposed despite heavy lobbying by the Chamber and it places Revelstoke among the top five BC communities that have the highest business taxes, Devitt said in the letter.
The Chamber wants the City to negotiate with its members and “foster a dialogue where we can share progressive ideas and form new partnerships on new initiatives.” City Council agreed and it schedule a meeting between its representatives and the Chamber Executive sometime next week.
The Chamber has also asked the City to “help bolster business in the downtown core and support businesses impacted by the Mackenzie Avenue construction” through its planned New Moon on Revelstoke event which will coincide with the Autumn Equinox and new moon on Sept. 19. The City has been specifically asked to participate in some capacity and to permit the closure of First Street from Boyle to Orton Avenues, Second Street from Connaught to Mackenzie Avenues and Mackenzie Avenue itself from Victoria Road to Third Street.
Specific details about this event will be announced at a later date.