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Jun. 5, 2020 | Friday
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COVID-19: Letter: Mayor, council doing nothing to help Old Town businesses
Letter

Dear editor:

The Old Town and Queen Street, in particular, are the centrepiece for tourism in Niagara-on-the-Lake and tourism is the mainstay of our economy.

The Shaw Festival, the bed and breakfast industry and the local wineries all benefit from the charm and attraction of this unique area with its outstanding collection of restaurants and shops. 

The businesses in this area are, for the most part, locally owned and employ hundreds of our residents. Even our residential property values are enhanced by the charm and attraction of the Old Town and  Queen Street.

The high property taxes and parking revenues from this area contribute a sizeable portion of the town’s revenues. 

In view of this, one would think that the town council and our lord mayor would be working tirelessly to help and assist the businesses in this area during the state of emergency.

Sadly, this is not so.  

There has been no communication or contact by councillors or the mayor with business owners to help these struggling merchants during our state of emergency. 

There has been no co-ordinated plan during this crisis or for the reopening of our commercial area.  

Flashing signs at the entrance to town to discourage visitors, eliminating all parking in the Old Town one week and then reopening the following week, towing cars off Queen Street, closing all public washrooms and fining merchants for shoppers congregating on the public sidewalk in front of stores are some of the tactics that have been used without any input or forewarning for the businesses.

Surely we have the right to expect better management from our local government.

Instead of developing tree bylaws or bylaws for locks on backyard hot tubs, focus on the development of a strategic plan for the health of our businesses in the Heritage District.

Start by forming a committee of council to work with Queen Street merchants and property owners to develop a plan to reopen.

Let’s implement the Heritage Tax Credit designed by the Ontario government to help property owners in heritage areas. (Over 30 municipalities in Ontario offer this credit to property owners in heritage areas... but not Niagara-on-the-Lake).

Stop working on plans to allow temporary vendors to set up shop in Simcoe Park, which would add additional injury to the Queen Street businesses. 

It’s time for our town officials to provide leadership and direction.

Tom Gauld 

NOTL

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