By Lethbridge Herald on February 6, 2024.
Some Red Deer downtown business owners are mad and may not take it anymore. Business owners in that city’s downtown are threatening to withhold property taxes until plans for a new shelter are made public and an overdose prevention site removed.
A petition in that city has attracted the support of 40 business owners due to their frustration with issues in their downtown.
Those issues are similar to those being experienced in downtown Lethbridge with vandalism, drug use and the need to clean up human feces on premises.
Some Red Deer businesses are locking their doors at all times because of loitering.
Additional businesses have shut down or moved and property owners are facing bankruptcy because they can’t pay their taxes on empty spaces.
A recent story out of Red Deer said little goes on downtown there because nobody wants to go there.
Is the idea of withholding taxes in downtown Lethbridge something that businesses and property owners want to consider themselves given ongoing problems here?
We understand social issues are complex but roll shutters, damage repair and cleaning doorways cost money. And a concept which isn’t complex to grasp is those costs come at the expense of potential profits.
But money isn’t the only issue downtown – there is a perceived safety issue which many here are concerned about.
Businesses in the Downtown Business Revitalization Zone pay an annual tax levy to support the BRZ, this organization which “provides public advocacy on issues affecting the downtown core,” says the City on its website.
What exactly does this public advocacy mean and what are businesses getting for their money that goes to this levy – aside from the opportunity to support companies in the security sector?
We hear the City is concerned about downtown issues, which perhaps explains the formation of the Downtown Lawlessness Reduction Task Force committee.
But do we really need a task force, and the expenditure of up to $10,000 on a data analysis company to determine what the issues are?
Unless the people who operate businesses downtown are missing something, that should be pretty obvious – drug addiction and the crime resulting from addiction. These are clearly the biggest issues facing downtown.
Do we need more analysis on the taxpayers’ dime to prove it officially?
Should property owners downtown consider taking the same approach as those in Red Deer – refuse to pay their tax levy until the situations they deal with are actually addressed?
What would downtown businesses have to lose? Penalties for not paying those levies? What actual penalty exists for those committing the crimes downtown?
What deterrent can be implemented which will change the dynamic of downtown?
Clearly, more emergency homeless shelter space hasn’t helped despite the investment of $1 million in provincial money because people aren’t using the shelter. And they can’t be forced to use it.
But downtown businesses can be forced to pay tax levies for “advocacy?” What advocacy?
What is the BRZ actually doing for downtown businesses, what is the City actually doing for downtown businesses besides taxing them?
What are they doing to attract people here and to make the city core’s safer?
Can a tax levy do that? Maybe the City can provide that answer.