How to Establish a BIA
In most cases, Business Improvement Areas have been established as a result of the initiative and hard work of a few members of the business community who perceive it to be an important organizational prerequisite to improving the business climate in their area. These first proponents of the BIA concept must be able to convince a substantial majority of their peers that a BIA will be a useful organization which will help them overcome some of the problems associated with their business community.
With the support and assistance of the municipality, the proponents of a BIA should arrange a general meeting or series of meetings if necessary, with business people and property owners from their area to discuss the formation of a BIA. Discussions at these meetings should focus on the needs of the business district as well as its potential.
Representatives of the provincial and municipal governments should be invited to speak to the group on the role and function of each in the revitalization process. These government officials can also explain the type of assistance and support that can be anticipated once a BIA is formed.
If a decision is made to proceed with the formation of a BIA, the business community must first decide on the boundaries for their area. Initially, the area should be kept compact in an effort to maximize the impact of the limited funds available for physical improvements. The BIA boundaries can always be expanded at a later date when it is more feasible to do so. Once the boundaries are agreed to, a steering committee should be formed and charged with the responsibility of managing the BIA implementation process. The tasks this committee must be prepared to undertake can be outlined as follows:
1. Prepare a Boundary Map and Legal Description
Obtain property mapping of the BIA and have the boundaries drawn as accurately as possible. Have a lawyer prepare a legal description of the boundaries.
2. Circulate a Petition
Prepare a petition, which requests that municipal council pass, a by-law pursuant to the Act, to establish a BIA. The boundary map and legal description should form part of the petition. Circulate the petition throughout the proposed BIA to get as many signatures as possible from the owners of properties and businesses. Although the Act requires only five signatures, a petition, which is endorsed by a substantial majority of the business community, provides council with an indication of the strong support that exists and also formalizes the commitment to the concept on the part of members of the business community.
3. Prepare Development Corporation Legal Documents
Have a lawyer prepare the legal documents for the formation of a development corporation. Usually, this is done by a firm, which will be a member of the BIA and has participated in the organizational meetings and is therefore familiar with the proposed goals and objectives of the organization.
4. Prepare a Budget for Year One
A budget should be prepared which identifies the sources of revenue for the first year of operations, and an itemized list of proposed expenditures. The levy rate required per $100 of assessment on properties located within the BIA must also be identified.
5. Hold a General Meeting of the Membership
A general meeting of all potential members of the BIA should be held at this point to review, discuss and modify as required, items 1 through 4 above. The Board of Directors for the Corporation should also be elected at this meeting.
6. Petition Council to Establish a BIA
The Corporation can now present the petition to Council requesting the establishment, by by-law, of a BIA. Council must follow the procedures set forth in the BIA Act with respect to giving public notice of its intention to pass the by-law. The by-law cannot be passed if more than one-third of the non-residential users” of the BIA object to its establishment.
Also, before the by-law can be passed it must be submitted by Council, to the Minister of Local Government for approval.
Once the BIA has been formally and legally established, the Board of Directors can begin to work toward achieving the organization’s goals and objectives. One of the first tasks might be to put some flesh to the bones of the organization by establishing committees to look after certain aspects of the operation, such as: planning, promotions and marketing, communications, etc. Depending on the financial situation, the Board may also wish to establish a full or part-time office with appropriate staffing. It may be useful to consult with other BIA’s, which are of similar size to discuss these organizational, administrative and financial issues.