The following is an edited version of a letter to Lord Mayor Betty Disero and members of town council ahead of this past Monday's council meeting:
We are writing to you on behalf of a group of Heritage District merchants. Recently, we formed a group comprising 30 merchants (and growing) to discuss issues we share. We feel that if we do not promote ourselves, the Heritage District will not survive this economic situation.
The town has not consulted or shared any plan with us and how we will recover as we have entered the first phase of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rather, we had a very harsh shutdown, which from a business owner standpoint, was an overreaction and has made our battle for recovery much more difficult and still we have had no assistance from our municipality nor the Region of Niagara.
Our costs to maintain our businesses are significantly higher than the rest of the town. Our businesses survive because of tourism in six months of the year. Without this revenue, some will not survive. This is scary for all businesses on Queen Street. We are all dependent on each other and our unique offerings that draw tourists to our town.
Empty storefronts will not benefit anyone and will devalue the town. The town and region need to support us if we want Queen Street to remain a vibrant street, the centre of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The following needs to be put into motion:
1. Heritage tax rebate: We need this put to motion immediately. The next council meeting is Monday, May 25. Can this be put in a motion or at minimum addressed? This rebate program was designed if not for Niagara-on-the-Lake, then for town’s exactly like us. The town’s contribution is nominal compared to the rebate opportunity. It needs to be a straight credit to taxes so that it can filter down to merchants. We are perplexed as to why this is not already in place.
2. Property tax forgiveness: This is an interim measure until the heritage tax rebate is in effect.
We pay taxes based on our assessments, which are heavily weighted by the lure of the destination that is Niagara-on-the- Lake … That product has not been delivered to us (a destination for tourists) for at least two months and thus we need a 50 per cent if not 100 per cent (both regional and municipal) forgiveness. The metric that is used to arrive at our assessment is flawed when the town is officially closed.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We need to make progress working with the town as part of a rescue process.
Sunset Grill (Kim & Scott), Pieza (Maurizio & Laryssa), Bistro Six One (Jay & Harry), Ara (Patricia), Halley's Fashion for Men (Peter), Corks & Orzo (Maria), Irish Design (Paul & Maureen), Serendipity & ArtSpace 106 (Ruth), The Scottish Loft (Simon), Balzac's (Steve), Great Things Ltd. (Sharon and Darren), Budapest Bakeshop (Todd & Anette), 124 on Queen Hotel & Spa (David), Epicurean & Grill on King (Giorgini), Leone's (Rob), Nina Gelateria & Pastries (Klaudia), Niagara Home Bakery (Voula), Taylor’s Bakery & Ice Cream (Peter), Il Gelato di Carlotta (Carlotta), The Irish Harp (Jovie), The Angel Inn (Keith & Kelly), Beau Chapeau (Kevin), Fournos (Jimmy & Dave), Versions (Peter), Spade and Sparrow (Emily), One Earth (Terri?Lynn), Viking (Peter), Nikolas (Tolis), The Shiny Company (Stuart).
The Heritage District Merchant Group