It took weeks of research, paperwork and campaigning but the Squamish Downtown Business Improvement Association (SDBIA) pulled together the signatures needed to have city council approve their existence for the next five years.
Though city staff still has to scrutinize the petition to ensure the signatures are legal and valid, SDBIA president Eric Armour said a healthy buffer on the number of people who signed gives him confidence the precedent has been met.
"As far as the count goes (it was) well over the 51 per cent on the criteria which makes us the first BIA in the province to ever do that, so that's pretty cool," said Armour, a small business owner himself. "The biggest barrier was the process itself. Literally the man hours and time that it took to actually go out and get the physical signatures of all those owners was a huge task. I had to put work on hold for about three weeks."
Squamish council required the BIA to secure 51 per cent of signatures of 97 downtown landowners representing 152 parcels of land before they approved a bylaw for the $45,000 annual grant needed by the SDBIA. Typically, municipalities take responsibility for securing the signatures needed for business associations facing renewal but in this case, an applicant-led process was approved. Without a majority agreement from downtown property owners, the association would have been disbanded.
"The BIA is an intrinsic part of downtown and it's essential to give a voice to all the different business owners to provide funding to initiate initiatives to build the profile of the downtown so without the BIA it's not good for the area as a whole," continued Armour. "For me personally, I have a business down here that puts food on my table so I have a strong vested interest in seeing the area as a whole does well."
Armour estimated that 65 to 68 per cent of the landowners signed the petition, though tracking them down was difficult and in some cases impossible.
"We didn't have contact information for about 25 per cent so pretty much every single one we got through to was positive," he said. "There were even some property owners who were away in Hawaii who wanted to fax it in, so it was pretty encouraging to see the level of support out there."
The Downtown Squamish BIA's mandate is to stimulate and promote the downtown neighbourhood as a vibrant hub of the community.
It is the collective voice of the downtown businesses. Working together, it seeks to establish Downtown Squamish as a unique destination attraction and a source of community pride through improvement and beautification projects, as well as diverse entertainment, sports and cultural activities.