The Aldergrove Business Association (ABA) board of directors feel frustrated by the stagnant situation of business in this community and wish to expand their clout.
To that end the ABA hosted an information meeting Thursday at their downtown Aldergrove office (upstairs at the Aldergrove Credit Union) to discuss taking the ABA to the next level as a Business Improvement Area (BIA).
About 20 people attended the meeting, and while there were concerns raised about the possible costs associated with membership in a BIA, most agreed that something has to be done.
ABA president Rob Wilson said the directors have been exploring their options over the past year and surveying members on their concerns about the business environment here.
Wilson said there were a wide range of issues raised by members, and that he believed a BIA would address those issues.
“A BIA is a self-help program,” said Wilson, saying a BIA would have professional leadership, paid for by the members through a special levy on property taxes.
Currently the ABA has about 100 members and at $45 each for annual dues it only provides a budget of $4,500 a year.
“That’s not much,” said Wilson adding that volunteers are getting difficult to come by in this day and age too.
“A BIA would provide stable funding as all business owners in a defined area would be members, if approved by a majority of property owners.
A levy on Class 5 an 6 property owners in the Fraser Highway area between 276 and 260 Streets, as well as between 247 and 250 Streets, would aim to raise $250,000 annually.
This would pay for staff to “encourage residents to sip local, make the downtown safer, cleaner and more attractive, and advocate for better transportation and accessibility,” said Wilson.
“The timing is right,” he said pointing to the new recreation centre that will open in 2018, as well as penning redevelopment of the former Aldergrove mall and the community arena sites.
However, the issue of the potential annual costs to the property owners was contentious, especially at the possible upper end for larger properties.
While an annual fee of about $52 was proposed for a 1,200 square foot business, the upper end was in the $13,000 range for a major mall.
Bruce Heslop, owner of Diamond Bar Equipment, said the proposed cost to his business of $1,500 a year would not address what he felt were his issues.
“I would rather spend that money on the things I support in the community,” said Heslop.
Jim Horner, owner of the large Kitchen Korner property, said he already pays $90,000 a year in property taxes and can’t justify a large increase to that for a BIA.
ABA director Malcolm Weatherston said he witnessed the transformation to Fort Langley as it adopted a BIA program, and “it’s been a day and night change. Not all of the community liked it and it didn’t happen overnight but it was good for business,” say Weatherston.
“Fort Langley is now a destination. Aldergrove is different as it is a ribbon development but the result will be for the better.”
Wilson closed the meeting with the observation that “Aldergrove has been studied to death,” as he hoisted a thick pair of binders containing the findings of the Aldergrove Task Force, commissioned by Langley Township over a decade ago.
“Like Malcolm says, it’s not going to happen overnight, but the question is do we start now or wait another five years?”