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City gets biz honour as it also receives biz criticism
Coquitlam's mayor said the city has "a lot of work to do" to make the municipality more business-friendly.
Mayor Richard Stewart made the comment after B.C.'s minister of tourism and small business presented council with an Open for Business award. Naomi Yamamoto was at Monday's city council meeting to congratulate Coquitlam — one of seven municipalities around the province to win the accolade — and to present it with a cheque for $10,000.
Coquitlam plans to use the grant to fund a small business-friendly program.
"We have a lot of work to do," Mayor Stewart said. "We are still making progress. We are going to keep making progress."
Yamamoto's appearance came just a week after city council heard complaints from a business owner who criticized city planners for taking too long to get a rezoning bid before council. (On Tuesday, Jim McIntyre, Coquitlam's general manager of planning and development, told The Tri-City News the formal application was submitted in July).
At Monday's council meeting, Peter Meegan of the Mary Ann Meegan Insurance Agency — whose building was gutted by fire last September — was in the front row to hear the minister and the mayor's words.
Later, city council unanimously approved fourth and final reading — plus a development permit — to allow Meegan to rebuild; council was due to consider both applications at its Oct. 21 meeting.
Meegan's aren't the only recent business complaints to city hall.
At last Thursday's budget meeting, a number of small business owners spoke about their struggles in Coquitlam, claiming property taxes are too high for businesses. They pressed council to reduce the business property tax rate, as did Mike Klassen, director of provincial affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), which has 170 members in Coquitlam.
Klassen, who was on the B.C. Small Business Roundtable that chose Coquitlam for the Open for Business award, told The Tri-City News he wanted to deliver a message to city council that "there's a premium to doing business in the city of Coquitlam."
But at Monday's council-in-committee meeting, some responded to the CFIB's presentation, charging that the group "hijacked" the town hall gathering. Mayor Stewart and Coun. Mae Reid said they found the CFIB uninformed and some participants left because they felt "intimidated" to ask their questions.
Council is now considering changing the rules for town hall meetings so Coquitlam residents can speak before business groups.
"I'm kind of stunned," Klassen told The Tri-City News on Tuesday, adding council "should be more sensitive" to business owners' concerns.
Also on Monday, two business owners claimed the city is being unfair in its bylaw ticketing practices.
Brothers Jim and Barry Allard of Allard Contractors/Coquitlam Concrete said the company has received about 18 fines this year because its trucks travelled on roads that are not designated as truck routes (they were forced to use alternate roads because of construction) as well as for having an unattached trailer and for having a front tire 17" away from a curb.
Jim Allard also complained about the lack of truck routes in the city and about the hike in traffic and safety penalties. The measures "have impacted our business significantly," he told council-in-committee.
City engineers are expected to meet with the Allards next Tuesday.
Mayor Stewart contended the city needs to be more flexible as the municipality grows "There's going to be an awful lot of construction in our community," he said.