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Dear DIA Board Members, Mayor Boddy, and Council Members,

I have concerns after attending the recent public meeting held by the DIA to discuss the re-structuring of the DIA and the redirection of $180,000 of DIA members' money to pay for complimentary parking in the downtown core. As you know, the DIA levee that creates a budget of $240,000 is paid by approximately 300 property owners within the DIA boundary. That is a significant amount of money for each member who already pays some of the highest commercial property taxes in Ontario.

The DIA was formed in 1973 to ensure that the downtown received the level of maintenance, beautification, and promotion that was needed to provide an attractive and welcoming atmosphere in our Central Business District. DIA Staff was hired to implement the programs and promotions determined by the Board, oversee seasonal workers, meet with City Staff, and field the daily questions and concerns of the membership.

The idea that the DIA should close its office and lay off its staff to facilitate complimentary parking should give all DIA members pause. Despite the assurances of City Staff that maintenance, beautification, and promotional standards will remain the same if those tasks are assigned to City Staff, it is hard to believe that there is enough existing capacity within City Hall to absorb the work of the DIA's current full and part-time staff without a serious reduction in service.

Our Central Business District will soon face two important challenges. The 10th Street bridge replacement and the River Precinct Project promise to help Owen Sound remain relevant and grow in the future. Both will be difficult for members of the DIA who will need the organization to be a strong and capable voice to help our City Staff make the best decisions as problems arise. This is not the time to close the DIA office.

The Ontario Municipal Act states that a local improvement area board may be established
"(a) to oversee the improvement, beautification and maintenance of municipally-owned land, buildings and structures in the area beyond that provided at the expense of the municipality generally; and (b) to promote the area as a business or shopping area. 2001, c. 25, s. 204 (2)"

Parking is a service that the City provides, using property that it owns, for the benefit of its citizens. Because the municipality generally provides free parking at most if not all its other parking areas, using DIA funds to pay for parking within the DIA boundaries could be seen to be in contravention of this act. Indeed, the question should be asked why parking within the DIA boundaries is required to be self-funding when other parking lots owned by the city don't seem to have the same requirements. These are just two reasons why DIA funds should not be used for parking.

I applaud the DIA and the City for looking at the thorny issue of parking, but I don't think any of the options presented are without significant problems. However, this might be the right time for the DIA to spearhead, in cooperation with the City, a comprehensive parking study with the goal of creating a parking masterplan. Keep the parking system as it is for now, but begin the work necessary to create a plan that is coherent, fair, and flexible. Find some money in the budget for it. Involve the community. Take the time necessary to explore all options. This could be the best money the DIA ever spends, and I would be very happy to help.

With respect,

Leigh Greaves.
Former DIA Board Chair,
Chair, Harmony Centre Owen Sound

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