OTTAWA – A controversial decision by the city’s finance committee to give a luxury car dealership a community development grant sparked a protest in Vanier on Tuesday night.
About 70 Vanier activists and residents gathered outside the Mark Motors Audi dealership on Montreal Road to demand that the funds be used for community priorities.
Terhas Ghebretecie, who lives in the community, doesn’t think a multi-million dollar business should be supported by the city.
“I’m here because I’m not supporting the Porsche dealership by using public funds, subsidized funds to build a new dealership here where I live in Vanier,” Ghebretecie said. “The funds could be spent on community housing, local businesses, businesses that will actually create jobs for local people.”
The project of Mrak Holdings Inc., aka Mark Motors of Ottawa, would be built at 458 Montreal Road, currently the site of an Audi dealership, while an existing Porsche dealership is just down the street at 611 Montreal Road. .
Mark Motors plans to double the staff at the current dealership once the new one is completed.
“They have every right to protest. We will respond with a backgrounder after the board vote, ”Michael Mrak, co-owner of Mark Motors, told CTV News Ottawa.
City staff said the city expects to cover the $ 2.9 million grant with a significant increase in property taxes at the site – from $ 25,627 per year to $ 355,619 per year.
Mayor Jim Watson supports the grant, calling it an investment in the community.
“This is not a subsidy in the traditional sense where something is given and nothing is returned. It is an investment to act as a magnet to attract businesses to an economically disadvantaged neighborhood.”
Sam Hersh of Horizon Ottawa questions this thinking, saying cities’ priorities need to change.
“There are a lot of things money should be spent on. We have an opioid crisis, housing crises, a climate crisis, ”Hersh said. “The fact that we’re spending more money on waiving tax increases for a Porsche dealership than on our climate change plan really reflects the city’s priorities.”
The final decision on the grant falls to Ottawa City Council on Wednesday.