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Rick Kerr resigns from BIA board

City needs to change its way of thinking about downtown: Kerr

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

City council is now without a representative on its downtown business hub.

Councillor Rick Kerr, the city’s representative on the Downtown Oshawa Business Improvement Area (BIA) Board of Directors, has resigned from his position, citing a change in how he views the organization.

Kerr, who seconded a motion at a recent special council meeting to dissolve the BIA, has handed in his resignation, stating his opinion of the BIA has changed.

“I’m growing to be at odds with the principles and practices of a BIA, and I think there’s a more effective way to do it, and a more economically enhancing way to do it for our downtown,” he explains.

Based on that change of opinion, Kerr doesn’t believe his continued participation would be well suited for the BIA.

“I found myself increasingly at odds with where they were going, and how they were getting there. I just think there’s a better way to help our downtown,” says Kerr.

He tells The Oshawa Express he seconded the motion to dissolve the BIA because he believes there are a lot of property owners who pay a levy and aren’t receiving any benefits from it.

He points to Kars on King as an example of an event which he believes doesn’t benefit downtown businesses.

“It could be held anywhere, and when it’s held downtown the vast majority of businesses are closed, so they’re not deriving any direct benefit from this,” he says.

He calls Kars on King a “good feel-good event,” but believes it could be held at Lakeview Park or the Delpark Homes Centre parking lot.

He says while the BIA does have a hand in the event and provides some volunteers, it is largely run by the city.

“When you look at who actually sets it up and does the vast majority of administration of it, the city staff do it,” he says.

He also says he is looking at the future of the downtown core.

“If we’re trying to attract new businesses downtown, and there isn’t a perceived benefit from paying the levy, why would a business locate downtown when they could locate in a mall or in another part of the city and not have upwards of five to 11 per cent on top of the property taxes they pay for a levy for which they do not receive any tangible benefits?” says Kerr.

Kerr believes the downtown should be treated like an “urban park.”

“We need to put the investment in the downtown as a general tax base, not a specific levy, because not just the downtown residents benefit from it. Any citizen of Oshawa can benefit from it,” he says.

He says if the city changes its way of thinking and begins to view the downtown differently, then more beautification will take place.

Ultimately, Kerr believes the BIA is an outmoded model of service delivery and says there is a better way moving forward.

“I think everybody really wants what’s best for the downtown. Sometimes you just have to change the way you do things… to get to where you need to be,” says Kerr.