What is a BIA?

The Napanee B.I.A. or Business Improvement Area is a geographic area within the Municipality of Greater Napanee. The geographic range contains the businesses from Thomas Street to the North, down to Water Street to the South, and as far west as Robert Street, and East down to Adelphi.

A BIA Board of Directors (often known as a Board of Management) is an organization set up to provide certain business promotion and improvement functions within that area. The purpose of a B.I.A. is that it allows local businesspeople and property owners to join and with the support of the municipality, to organize, finance and carry out physical improvement and promote economic development in their district. The local municipality is the body that is responsible for approving the budget of the BIA.

The History of B.I.A. How did they start?

Historical Context – the Bloor West Village BIA

In 1970, responding to a request by a Toronto business association, Ontario passed enabling legislation to create the world’s first Business Improvement Area (BIA) in Bloor West Village. Previously relying on voluntary contributions for its projects, the newly created Bloor West Village BIA could now rely on a steady stream of revenue from a new city levy, made possible under the legislation, for long-term planning to improve the area. Every business within its boundaries contributed to the levy. Since the creation of this first BIA, many more have been established. Now there are more than 270 BIAs in Ontario, varying in size from fewer than 60 business and property owners to more than 2000. The BIA concept is now global, adopted by more than 500 communities across Canada, 2000 throughout the United States, and thousands more around the world including Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

BIA Membership and Funding

Once a traditional BIA is approved by municipal council, commercial properties within its boundaries become members and pay the BIA levy along with their property taxes. A traditional BIA view is that this structure reflects the principle that all who benefit should be required to bear their fair share of the cost of the program. In addition, the arrangement provides a secure source of funding for BIA activities. While this is the primary resource for BIA funding, many BIA’s undertake modest or extensive public and private fundraising to raise funds for special events or activities.

Functions of a BIA

The general function of a traditional BIA is to oversee the improvement of the geographic boundary of their area and to promote the area as a business or shopping area.

Our Mission Statement:

To be the connector for a shared community vision fo Downtown Greater Napanee, on behalf of our members to support our community’s development, culture and growth.

Board Documents:

Board of Management Roles and Responsibilities
Constitution Procedural ByLaws

Member Documents:

Financial Statements
Ombudsman Reports

Board of Directors

Karie Biggley – Chair
Business/Property Owner
Marie’s Place Music Emporium

Tim Reynolds – Director
Business/Property Owner
L&A Financial

Ian Sinclair – Vice Chair
Property Owner
Milady’s Lace

Tina Kirkby – Secretary
Business Owner
Block by Block Studio

Doris Lucas – Director/Beautification
Business/Property Owner
April’s Images, October’s Clothing

Examples of BIA Activities


BIAs often provide enhancements in a business area to create a more pleasant atmosphere for local businesses and neighbouring residential areas. The most common way is streetscape improvement through the addition of customer-friendly lighting, signage, street furniture, planters, banners and sidewalk treatments as well as seasonal decorations.

Revitalization and Maintenance

BIAs can help to revitalize, improve and maintain physical infrastructure as well as help make an area cleaner and safer. Approaches have ranged from working towards brownfield redevelopment and building façade restoration to graffiti removal and enhanced street cleaning and garbage receptacles.

Marketing and Promotion

To retain and expand its customer base, a BIA may encourage both local residents and others to shop and use services within the local commercial district through marketing and promotional activities.

Special Events

BIAs often organize and work with community partners to hold special events to promote and showcase their businesses. Examples include holding a street dance, music, theatre or dance festival, food fair, arts and crafts exhibition, art studio tour, fashion show, ethnic/cultural celebration and seasonal carnival or parade as well as establishing a local farmers’ market.

Business Recruitment

BIAs often work with commercial or industrial property owners to help ensure that available space is occupied, and that an optimum business and service mix is achieved and maintained.


BIAs can act as a voice for the commercial property owners and Downtown Business owners by establishing important relationships with other community voices, such as city council, municipal departments, local community groups (schools, churches, citizen groups, etc.) and institutions (chambers of commerce, committees of council, etc.). The BIA forum can be used to convey community concerns to council and help prompt council to pursue policies and activities to promote and strengthen the BIA area and its unique identity. Likewise, it can provide a feedback mechanism for council issues.

Who May Benefit from a BIA?

Business Operators

All businesses in the area, whether retail, professional, dining, entertainment or finance, may gain advantages from the improved local atmosphere and ambience that a successful BIA helps to create. Improvements and activities may retain more local customers and attract more visitors. Cost savings to members may result from improved integration of capital funding and promotional activities.

Commercial Property Owners

BIA-initiated improvements and activities may help to create and sustain a more vibrant economic environment within an area, which may lead to an increased demand for retail and office space, and decrease in commercial vacancy rates and an increase in property values.

Surrounding Neighbourhoods

A BIA may improve quality of life in surrounding neighbourhoods through physical improvements as well as enhanced ambience, choices in local shopping and professional services, job opportunities, cleanup and safety programs, and community get-togethers.

The Wider Community

Fostering local economic development and revitalization in an area can stimulate new impetus for tourism and investment in the wider community. Increased business activity can improve both the municipal and sales tax base and support public services of benefit to all. Fostering community engagement can strengthen and build community interest, spirit, pride and networks well beyond the boundaries of a BIA.

Role of the Province

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) administers the legislation that governs BIAs. MMAH encourages municipalities to work with BIAs by having a dialogue about the responsibilities of the BIAs, and also to devise solutions that work best in each area.


The Province provides support for BIAs in Ontario in a variety of ways. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is responsible for administering the legislation and the policy concerning BIAs. The Ministry responds to inquiries from municipalities, the public, BIAs, and BIA Associations. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) also works to support rural BIAs through economic development advisors. OMAFRA has a number of programs to assist rural BIAs including the Business Retention and Expansion program (BR+E) and the Rural Economic Development program. MMAH and OMAFRA each have a staff member who sits on the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) Board.

Role of the Municipality

The Municipality typically plays a key role in the following areas:

A) Leadership and commitment by council
B) Staff assistance to business leaders in organizing meetings and promotion in the initial conceptualization stages Council approval is required to establish a BIA, Public consultation process – petition/objections
C) Council representative will be on the Board of Management and will work as a liaison between Council and the BIA Board.
D) Approval of annual budget, and financial monitoring

Perhaps the biggest role that the Municipality plays with a BIA is through General Support. Leadership and commitment of local political leaders has been an essential part of BIA success stories across North America. A BIA board of management and the Municipal Council and staff work together to achieve their common goal for a strong and vibrant business community. The Municipality can work to encouraging local business leaders to get started and participating on an ongoing basis, provide a supportive growth management and development strategy, provide financial and technical resources assistance, institute public improvements, raise awareness of BIA’s among Municipal Staff and to provide encouragement and support to the BIA.

In turn, BIAs often view the council representative’s role as keeping the BIA informed of pertinent council matters. For example, the councillor may inform the board of meetings that should be attended, when issues of concern will be dealt with by committees or council as a whole, and how to get the most out of its relationship with the municipality and council. All BIA meeting minutes, policies, procedures, by-laws and motions are subject to the final approval of the Municipality of Greater Napanee.

Managing and Operating a BIA

BIA Membership

The members of a traditional Business Improvement Area consist of both property owners in an improvement area, and their tenants. Membership in a BIA generally includes attendance at BIA meetings, including the annual meeting of the BIA, and eligibility to vote on BIA-related issues such as the annual budget and selections to the board of management.

Some BIAs also have associates, who attend meetings. Associates are generally business people in the area surrounding but not included in existing BIA boundaries.

Board of Management – Overview

Administration and strategic management of a Business Improvement Area is generally the responsibility of the Board of Management. In particular, the Board of Management is typically responsible for overseeing the planning, budgeting, implementing and evaluating of BIA projects.

Rules in the legislation (the Municipal Act, 2001 and City of Toronto Act, 2006) may apply to the term of directors of a BIA board of management. Traditionally, the term of the directors of a Board of Management is the same as the term of the council that appointed them, but continues until their successors are appointed. All Directors are eligible for re-appointment and the BIA Board size does vary considerably depending on what the municipality decides. Apart from the position on the Board usually reserved for council appointees, the rest of the Board is selected through a vote by the BIA membership subject to their approval by council

Typical Roles of the BIA Board of Management

Composition and activities of the Board of Management and its officers:

The BIA Board typically establishes or makes recommendations to Council about rules for the composition and activities of the Board and its officers (e.g., chair, vice-chair, treasurer). Among the issues often considered are:

  • The size of the board of management
  • Officer positions
  • Rules for quorum
  • Procedures for vacancies
  • Responsibilities of the board
  • Duties and responsibilities of board of management members and officers

BIA Boards of management also often form rules on:

  • Creation, functions and meetings of committees and sub-committees
  • General meetings of BIA
  • Annual budget
  • General expenditures
  • Rules of order
  • Contracts
  • Voting/proxy voting
  • Elections

These practices are common. (Many details are not mentioned in the traditional BIA or other legislation.)

Budgets, Funding and Financial and Annual Reports

BIA Boards of Management traditionally submit their annual budget estimates for Council approval. Traditionally the BIA could not spend money unless it was included in the estimates, or in a reserve fund. In addition, such boards could not borrow money, and could not incur debts extending beyond the current year without prior Council approval. Finally, Boards traditionally submit to Council an annual report including audited financial statements for the preceding year, by the date and in the form set by Council. Generally, the BIA Board of Directors exercises a number of informal responsibilities. These often include items like selecting an Executive, establishing and reviewing Committees, hiring staff, establishing BIA policies, reviewing and assessing BIA programs and projects.

When selecting an Executive, it generally consists of four members which are the Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer/Secretary and Committee Chair. It is generally chosen by a Majority vote of the Board. In some cases, choices for the executive are submitted to the BIA membership for approval.

Establishing and Reviewing Committees

Boards of managements often establish BIA committees. Many boards initially establish at least two committees, one for beautification and one for marketing and promotion. As the BIA matures, other committees are often introduced to provide for better planning with respect to parking, business development, tourism, revitalization projects and any number of other issues. Committees generally range in size from three to eight persons. The chair of each committee is often a member of the Board of Management. Other committee members can include BIA members or local community leaders. Committee members may be appointed for any length of time during the tenure of the board, in practice.

Many BIA boards of managements establish guidelines that govern committee activities, including:

  • Board of management membership on the committee
  • Selection of a vice-chair for the committee
  • The chair of the board is automatically a member of all committees (sometimes called an “ex-officio” position)
  • That notices of meetings and agenda be mailed out to committee members in advance.
  • That committees be responsible for their budgeted funds and seek board approval for any funds that exceed this budget.

In general practice, the chair of a committee is accountable to the Board of Management for all expenditures within the committee budget. In addition, the committee chair may have several other important responsibilities, including:

  • Choosing committee members
  • Organizing and planning programs and projects in the committee’s area of responsibility
  • Presenting progress reports to the board of management on all programs and projects undertaken by the committee

The committee may have practical responsibility for developing and implementing the budget, and for programs or projects required to carry out the mandate of the committee. Many committees with responsibility for a wide range of programs and projects establish sub-committees.

Hiring Staff

All BIAs require dedicated people to devote time and effort to help ensure the success of the programs and projects they establish. Some BIAs have paid, professional staff, but many operate with only volunteers. Many BIAs that do employ professional staff hire a manager for the day-to-day management and operation of the BIA and its programs and projects. An assessment of staffing needs may require the BIA Board of Management to consider a number of issues, including:

  • Identifying tasks needed to implement BIA projects and programs
  • Identifying skills that staff require to complete these tasks
  • Determining resources and help that may be available from the municipality and from within the local business leadership and wider local community
  • Minimum requirements that the municipality may establish for staff of its local boards (compensation, benefits, etc.)
  • Deciding if resources are adequate to meet the staffing needs of the BIA
  • Determining the availability of funds to hire paid professional staff

Rules of Order

BIA’s often establish rules concerning the rules of order for meetings of the board, committees and subcommittees. Often a BIA will refer to an established set of rules of order for conduct at meetings, such as Robert’s Rules of Order (robertsrules.org), which adapt historic Parliamentary Procedure to help everyone be heard and make decisions with minimal confusion.


This is usually understood as the number of members that must be present for business to be conducted. The actual number is usually stated in bylaws.

Order of Business:

Organizations using Parliamentary Procedure usually follow a fixed Order of Business. For example:

  • Call to Order: The chair says, “The meeting will please come to order.”
  • Roll Call: Members say “present” as their names are called.
  • Minutes: Secretary reads a record of the last minutes.
  • Officers’ Reports: Often limited to a report from the treasurer, but others may report at this time.
  • Committee Reports: First come reports from “standing” or permanent committees; then from “ad hoc” or special committees.
  • Special Orders: Important business previously designated for consideration at this meeting.
  • Unfinished Business: Business left over from previous meetings.
  • New Business: Introduction of new topics.
  • Announcements: Inform the assembly of other subjects and events.
  • Adjournment: Meeting ends by a vote, or by general consent (or by chair’s decision if time of adjournment was pre-arranged by vote)

Voting and Proxy Voting

BIA Boards of Management usually establish rules concerning voting procedures at general meetings and board meetings. Among the possible issues that can be considered are:

• Voting by general membership
• Voting by board members
• Voting procedures

A number of BIAs have created rules about voting procedures that may help allow for well-executed general meetings. For example, some have a rule requiring corporate members to declare their nominees to the municipal clerk a week prior to a general meeting. As a reminder, the following traditional requirements (summarized from the legislation) may be among those that apply:

• A corporate member of a BIA may nominate in writing one individual to vote on behalf of the corporation.
• Each member of a BIA has one vote regardless of the number of properties that the member may own or lease in the improvement area.


BIA Boards of Management generally establish procedures concerning elections or selections to the board. Among the possible issues that can be considered is a process for nominating candidates for the board.

Consistency with Legislation

It is important for all Board of Management members to remember that any and all policies, bylaws and other matters they act on must be consistent with law, including legislative and bylaw requirements. Of particular importance for BIAs may be sections 204-215 of the Municipal Act, 2001, BIA related provisions in the City of Toronto Act, 2006 and applicable local bylaws (such as the Toronto Municipal Code).