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Many BC communities have well-preserved historic downtowns and main streets. These areas often exemplify the type of compact, centralized, mixed use development that many communities encourage in their OCPs and other land use policies. However, through years of neglect and competition with shopping malls and big box retail, many of BC’s downtowns lack economic and aesthetic vitality.
The Community Charter was changed to make it easier for green development to apply for RTEs
But that’s not the end of the story. With growing awareness of the perils of unchecked low-density suburban development, downtown revitalization is being taken up as an effective way to promote smart growth, and Revitalization Tax Exemptions (RTE) can help make it happen.
By revitalizing areas that are central, connected and compact, local governments are taking climate action by reducing car dependence and infrastructure costs.
The story gets even better. In 2007, the Community Charter [R545], which establishes authority to create RTE bylaws, was changed to make it easier for green development to apply for RTEs. Previously, local governments had to establish a revitalization area, with RTEs only available to properties within this area.
Now, local governments can establish an RTE bylaw that would encourage green development across the jurisdiction, not only within a targeted revitalization area. Green development features, such as high performance or efficiency buildings, streamside protection measures, integrated stormwater management, and brownfield redevelopment could all be encouraged through an RTE policy .
 Revitalization Tax Exemptions: A Primer on the Provisions in the Community Charter. 2008. Ministry of Community Services, Government of BC
Getting started with a Revitalization Tax Exemption program is fairly straightforward, but must follow guidelines set out in the enabling legislation. See Revitalization Tax Exemptions: A Primer on the Provisions in the Community Charter [R543] for information. Looking to other BC communities with experience using RTEs can also provide guidance.
For example, RTEs are used in Williams Lake [R547] to encourage the building and revitalization of multi-family rental housing; in Salmon Arm and Parksville [R548] to promote general downtown revitalization; in Kelowna [R546], to encourage mixed-use downtown development.
One local government that uses RTEs to promote climate action is the District of Maple Ridge. It offers a property tax exemption [R542] for high-rise residential development that occurs within a pre-designated revitalization area. Under the District’s RTE policy, residential development that meets basic criteria is eligible for a two-year tax exemption.
Developments that are LEED Silver, Gold or Platinum qualify for a four-year tax exemption . A change in legislation now allows for broader authority than existed at the time Maple Ridge adopted its bylaw - a designating a revitalization area by bylaw is not longer required.
The City of Victoria is proposing the “Revitalization Tax Exemption (Green Power Facilities) Bylaw No. 09-040”. To be eligible for a tax exemption of up to ten years, the applicant must construct and operate a “Green Power Facility” (biomass, geothermal, solar, wind, wastewater heat recovery, for heating or cooling and/or the supply of electricity) that services at least two separate energy efficient (LEED Silver or equivalent) buildings in an area of new development or redevelopment
Before moving forward with a Revitalization Tax Exemption policy, several important factors should be considered.
First of all, it requires significant buy in and leadership from the Council/Board. Also, the local developers should be consulted in order to gauge the potential effectiveness of the policy. Another important consideration is to determine whether this form of subsidy is the most effective use of resources .
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 Community Energy Association. 2008. “Policy & Governance,” a module of the Renewable Energy Guide. http://www.communityenergy.bc.ca/sites/default/files/Policy&GovernanceTo...
 Fraser Basin Council and Community Energy Association. 2008. Energy Efficiency and Buildings. Fraser Basin Council. http://toolkit.bc.ca/resource/energy-efficiency-and-buildings-resource-bcs-local-governments
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