Owen Sound will be lighting up the night sky with fireworks Dec. 5 to honour the 100th anniversary of its incorporation as a city.
Owen Sound Celebrates will feature a five- to seven-minute fireworks display at 7 p.m. from Victoria Park.
The cost will be covered by money the city set aside in its 2020 budget for this year’s Canada Day festivities at Kelso Beach Park, which council voted to cancel in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Council voted to hold the fireworks display at a later date.
“Owen Sound is a city that really loves their fireworks and we’re hoping that this fireworks display and this small celebration can bring a little bit of joy to people that are looking for things to do in the community,” Brent Fisher, manager of community development and marketing, said Tuesday.
While the fireworks will be set off at Victoria Park, the city won’t be allowing people to watch the display from there or the Julie McArthur Regional Recreation Centre parking lot.
Instead, in an effort to discourage large gatherings amid the pandemic, it will ask people to view the fireworks from locations throughout the city, such as the Duncan McLellan Park, Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre or Heritage Place mall parking lots or from their own backyards.
The city will be releasing a map closer to the event date with suggested viewing locations.
Owen Sound Celebrates will also include a 100th anniversary special on Rogers TV. People can also check out augmented reality panels on the city’s history that will be set up near the Sydenham River.
Montreal-based GFA Pyro, which put on Owen Sound’s Canada Day fireworks in 2018 and 2019, will organize the Dec. 5 display. Council conditionally approved Monday an exemption to the city’s fireworks bylaw to permit the display for Owen Sound Celebrates.
Fisher said more details on the celebration will be released closer to the event.
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City still buying back lot
Owen Sound is sticking by its decision to buy back a lot in its industrial park after the purchaser requested a one-year extension to apply for a building permit for the property.
Council voted Monday to deny the extension request, which came after its October motion directed the city’s lawyer to provide notice under the sale agreement’s irrevocable option to repurchase the lot on the east side of 18th Avenue East.
The sale, which closed Oct. 26, 2017, included a buyback option allowing the city to repurchase the land if the buyer had not, after 18 months of the closing date, received a building permit and commenced construction.
Council heard the city’s development team received no inquiries about the land in the nearly three years since the sale closed and no site plan or development approvals had been requested or obtained.
Community services director Pam Coulter said the goal of selling serviced industrial land is to create opportunities for development and employment and avoid speculation. She said that hasn’t happened in this case.
In a Nov. 6 letter to the city, an official with the numbered company that bought the property from the city for $26,600 said he intended to apply for a building permit in spring 2020. Those plans came to a halt, he said, due to his lawyer working fewer hours during the pandemic and his own isolation because his senior parents reside with him.
Coulter told council the buyer had two years before the pandemic during which development approvals could have been advanced and that council has continued to approve site plans during the pandemic.
The property is to be relisted with the city’s realtor, Chestnut Park.
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City approves new CIP
City council has approved a new Community Improvement Plan for Owen Sound.
The document includes a dozen programs – some new, some already in place and some modified – that are aimed at promoting revitalization projects and supporting development in the city.
Programs that will continue under the updated CIP include the facade and structural improvement grant program, which helps with the restoration and rehabilitation of street-facing exteriors of buildings within the downtown and harbour area, and a heritage property tax rebate program, which assists owners of designated heritage properties in maintaining and restoring their properties.
New programs include: a property and landscaping improvement grant, which would help property owners/tenants improve the function or aesthetic appeal of their property; an accessibility improvement grant, which would promote improvements that exceed accessibility act requirements; a startup space leasehold improvement grant, which would help new businesses set up shop by providing grants for permanent leasehold improvements to commercial or live/workspace; and a vacant buildings conversion/expansion grant, which would help with the small-scale conversion of existing vacant space into new commercial, residential or mixed uses.
Staff will be recommending council include $95,000 in Owen Sound’s 2021 operating budget for CIP incentive programs. That would include a $20,000 grant from Grey County.