This article was written and submitted by Eric Aderneck, an urban planner in the Metro Vancouver region.

The development of land and construction of buildings provide businesses with space where they can grow, whether it be retail shops, office buildings, or industrial-grade spaces.

For these businesses to grow and prosper, however, they need stability — tenant accommodations, consistent municipal land use plans, certain government policy framework, fixed long-term leases, predictable property tax bills, clear business permitting and licensing rules, among other things.

Change can be progress, but it can also be disruptive. Not to suggest a pro-stasis or anti-development position, but change in a commercial district should be in line with local objectives and support the business community.

Introducing commercial uses into an industrial district, or residential uses into a commercial district, can destabilize a property and its surrounding area. Adding new and different uses into an established area can have negative implications such as land use conflicts, increases in land values, surging rent levels, occupant turnover, speculation, displacement of businesses, and losing existing uses through redevelopment.

Under such a scenario, development becomes the main driver of activity. Rising land values cause landowners to be more interested in development potential than leasing potential, leading to increases in assessed property values and taxes that can further negatively impact tenant leases through the landlord's desire for a lease agreement with shorter terms and demolition clauses.

This can contribute to the turnover of uses and users, and turn active businesses into construction sites. If those new buildings can accommodate and retain the existing businesses in the area and provide more space for them to grow, that is positive. However, if the new buildings rent at higher rates that only certain businesses can afford, the pre-existing businesses won't have a home and part of the business ecosystem will be lost.

Vibrancy and viability, rather than disruption and displacement, should be the desired outcomes.

Given the scale and scope of the matter, what can municipalities do to help foster local business success?

Firstly, protect industrial lands for their intended use to avoid introducing land use conflicts. This will also help to keep assessed property values stable, which, along with predictable tax rates, will check tax increases paid by the tenants. And when businesses need to move or expand, having a simple permitting process reduces time, risk, and costs.

Additionally, city initiatives — plans, policies, services, investments — should be well-informed by the needs of the local community, whether that be enhanced services that address crime, safety, and social issues in the neighbourhood, or sharing data and information.

Municipalities can work with both residents and businesses to create successful residential neighbourhoods and commercial districts alike. A Business Improvement Association can also support the success of businesses through coordination amongst internal members and partnerships and advocacy with external parties. A collaborative relationship is mutually beneficial.

And lastly, of benefit to all residents, municipal governments can support additional housing supply in appropriate locations for the growing workforce. That, and a generally positive business climate, is something that can be appreciated by all.