The developers of the new Jubilee Heights subdivision in south Campbell River asked the city to change the Official Community Plan and zoning for their intended commercial centre to increase the size of the grocery store that can locate there, but some on council thought that would prove detrimental to downtown. In the end, a compromise was found. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Compromise found on grocery store size in south Campbell River subdivision

Approved increase less than developer wanted, but will still allow for some flexibility

After months of discussions, presentations, deliberations and negotiations, Campbell River city council has passed an amendment to adjust the potential size of the future grocery store in the Jubilee Heights subdivision.

Council went around and around on the proposed expansion being sought by Couverdon, the developers of the subdivision, before settling on 3,200 sq/m as the store’s maximum. That’s significantly less than the developer was seeking, but also much more than was currently in the Official Community Plan (OCP) for the area.

Under the previous cap of 2,400 sq/m – or just under 26,000 sq/ft – Couverdon told council they would be severely limited in the types of stores that would be interested in locating in the space. That limit was placed on the property back in 2003 when it was incorporated into the OCP, but since that time, “the south end of town has grown considerably, and there’s an uneven distribution of grocery stores in the community, with the majority centred in the northern half of the city,” Ross McKeever, director of real estate development for Couverdon, told council during the first public hearing on the matter.

The amendment being proposed also included a wording change to allow for duplexes to be added to the residential area, and an overall expansion to the commercial node, both of which council didn’t have a problem with. It was the expanded grocery store where things got stuck.

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McKeever told council the market research Couverdon has conducted shows that southern Campbell River “is drastically underserved,” in terms of grocery servicing and could support a much larger store than what was previously approved. The company was looking for an increase to 4,000 sq/m. He also said anything under about 3,750 sq/m could have trouble garnering interest from potential tenants, as most companies are looking for larger spaces these days.

“We want to provide flexibility to those grocery retailers, whether they be local or national, to look at the site and put in the format that they think will best serve the south Campbell River community,” McKeever said.

But some on council were concerned that allowing a grocery store of that size would be damaging to downtown, which the city has been working to revitalize for some time.

But in the end, after two public hearings and reconsidering the entire amendment after it was already passed without the added grocery space included, council decided that they shouldn’t be “handcuffing” the developers in their attempt to find a tenant for the location, but they also didn’t want a big-box style store driving traffic away from the downtown core, and they settled on allowing 3,200 sq/m as the maximum space permitted for the grocery retailer.

For comparison, Quality Foods at Merecroft Village is approximately 2,500 sq/m in size, Thrifty Foods downtown is approximately 3,300 sq/m and Save-On Foods downtown is approximately 4,100 sq/m.

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