Queen Charlotte will change the way it handles grants for renovating business facades after some business owners complained about confusing rules and deadlines.
Starting next year, Queen Charlotte will set a firm spring deadline for the first round of grants.
New businesses can apply, but they can only get a grant if they open at least two months of the year. Businesses that share a single building will have to submit separate application forms.
Funded by the Northern Development Initiative Trust, the facade program gives business owners a one-time, matching rebate of up to $5,000 to improve their signs or storefronts.
Queen Charlotte usually receives a total budget of $20,000 for the program, as does Masset and other municipalities across northern B.C.
Carl Coffey, owner of Crabapple Creek Enterprises, asked councillors to make changes after seeing flyers that listed an application deadline of June 15, only to find out that all of this year’s grants were awarded in February. Coffey had planned to apply so he could re-finish the Crabapple Creek sign, repaint the doors and build a new cedar entranceway.
Coffey also said the the program went against NDIT guidelines by awarding three of this year’s grants to businesses housed in a single building.
“All the red flags came up,” he said. “The whole program has been misrepresented.”
While village staff agree the deadline was unclear, Queen Charlotte Mayor Greg Martin said NDIT has confirmed that the village can award grants to separate businesses in a single building, although they should apply on separate forms.
“The spirit of the law was followed, NDIT was happy,” Martin said.
“There was a fair amount of smoke and fire, but by and large it was a minor clerical error.”
Coffey disagrees, and wants council to revisit this year’s grants and set up a business committee to award the grants for next year. Coffey made the request after meeting with the mayor and giving a presentation to council that involved a heated question-and-answer session with many knocks of the gavel and talk of phoning police.
“That isn’t free speech,” said Coffey, accusing Queen Charlotte council of behaving like a dictatorship.
“We might as well be in Russia.”