Author: A.Furtado, Citizen Journalist
A motion that could allow big box stores in Central Saanich, passed by Central Saanich council members Sept 19, and was questioned by the Advisory Planning Committee (APC) and Planning Director Hope Burns, as being contrary to the vision of the community.
The motion drafted by Councillor Ron Kubek, was to delete the sentence of the Official Community Plan (OPC) that states “No single use large footprint (>5000 square meters) commonly referred to as “big box stores” will be considered.”
Council members Jack Mar, Ron Kubek, Terry Siklenka and John Garrison voted in favor of this motion.
Since no application has come forward requesting a change to the Official Community Plan, it is unclear what prompted Council to pass this amendment. According to the Peninsula News Review (Sept. 21), Councillor Kubek stated, “Given that there was some who thought, during recent community discussions, that we should do more on Keating X Road, my goal is to eliminate any impediment to the development of any large parcels…we want to encourage businesses to look at Central Saanich rather then other municipalities…”
Councillor Adam Olsen, who opposes this Motion stated, “The current 54,000 square feet is a very large footprint for a single use retail store. We haven’t had an application asking for anything close to that. Should an applicant need a larger building, then they can ask the community that question.”
Planning Director Hope Burns stated at the Sept 21, Advisory Planning Committee Meeting, that there are currently no commercially zoned or light industrial parcels in the Keating area that would even accommodate the current maximum store size of 54,000 square feet and still provide adequate parking.
While considering the proposed amendment to the Official Community Plan, the Advisory Planning Committee (APC) discussed where a building this size could fit within the proposed area. Scenarios arose of Keating land owners combining their parcels, to allow for a store of this magnitude. Finally APC member Dale Quarry said, “The only place is ALR land.” Unable to support Council’s Motion, the APC voted to recommend that Council maintain the current store size cap stipulated in the Official Community Plan.
A Memo from Hope Burns, dated Sept 6, 2011 emphasizes, “Store size caps are used to ensure that retail development is scaled appropriately for the community, does not overwhelm the local economy, or with their construction occupancy cause traffic congestion…Research has shown that the effects of large retail (i.e. big-box stores) on a community can be significant and long term, impacting it’s natural, physical, social and economic character…planning staff does not recommend the proposed bylaw amendments at this time…”
Even though the Advisory Planning Committee and the District Planning Staff do not support Council’s Motion to allow Big Box Stores in Central Saanich, Council’s Motion continues to move forward for final adoption by Council. Hope Burns does not believe there will be time for a public hearing prior to the November 19th municipal election.