The Aldergrove Business Association’s Board of Directors has decided to extend its timeline in the organization’s bid to establish a business improvement area (BIA) zone in Aldergrove.
A BIA would aim to stimulate business and promote Aldergrove’s commercial retail area through a strategic business plan. If supported, funding would be collected by the Township of Langley on Class 5 and Class 6 properties within a defined zone along Fraser Highway.
“Connecting with both business owners and property owners is critical in this process,” said Rob Wilson, President of the Aldergrove Business Association (ABA).
“We’re encouraged by the conversations that we’ve had – the majority of the business owners we’ve talked to have been very supportive of the idea of establishing a BIA here in Aldergrove, but it proved to be very challenging to connect with property owners. We knew at the outset that it would require extensive consultation make the case for a BIA,” said Wilson, “but despite our best efforts at trying to make those connections over the last nine months or so, we simply ran out of time for 2018.”
However, he added, “We’re committed to moving forward in a way that is sustainable long-term.”
In 2016, the Township and the ABA surveyed area business owners on their concerns about Aldergrove’s business environment, and the ABA board determined that a BIA could offer a much stronger support structure for business in Aldergrove by virtue of a strategic business plan.
The ABA currently has about 100 members, with annual dues of $45 providing a budget of about $4,500 a year.
“The ABA has always had incredible support from member businesses like Aldergrove Credit Union (ACU), Otter Co-Op, and others when it comes to sponsorship and in-kind donations for our events, but with such a small budget it’s difficult to provide the kind of real support we feel the Aldergrove business community needs,” Wilson said.
He also noted the challenge of being an all-volunteer organization.
“A larger, stable budget under a BIA would allow for the hiring of an individual to coordinate and lead the support, activities and operations that would bring real value to the businesses in our town.”
A BIA, if approved by a majority of commercial property owners in Aldergrove, would collect an annual fee from participating property owners through the Township’s municipal property tax rolls. These funds would be then turned over to the BIA to fund the hiring of staff and the provision of initiatives, such as the popular hanging floral baskets in the downtown area, among other projects potentially approved by the BIA membership.
The amount of these annual BIA fees would vary according to the size of the businesses, ranging from a proposed scale of about $500 for small businesses up to several thousands of dollars for larger properties such as malls.
This range of fees proved to be a bone of contention at a meeting called by the ABA on Sept. 28, as the larger fees were considered a real burden by some of the larger property owners. There were also property owners who objected to the fees because their properties are not currently utilized for retail commercial purposes.
“We’ve learned a lot over the past year,” Wilson said about the process that the ABA has followed in pursuing a potential BIA.
“The ABA board now has a clearer roadmap on how it might proceed.”
He indicated that the ABA has also discussed reforming its membership structure, with tiered fees that would provide the organization with a larger budget and defined goals that would be voted on by members.
“There are several options we’ll be discussing with the business community over the next few months,” said Wilson.
“We’re looking forward to continuing the dialogue. It’s really up to the business community in Aldergrove to make its future.”