The developers of the new Jubilee Heights subdivision in south Campbell River have 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 think that would prove detrimental to downtown. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Jubilee Heights developers want larger grocery store for south end of Campbell River

Some members of council, at least, think that would prove detrimental to downtown

The developers of Jubilee Heights – the new subdivision going in beside South Dogwood Street between Hilchey and Erickson – have informed Campbell River city council they would like to change a few things in their plan. But council doesn’t seem thrilled with one of the concepts, in particular.

The developers have requested an addition to their allowed commercial space so they can host a much larger grocery store than what was previously approved. Some councillors say, however, that could have a negative impact on the city’s downtown.

Representatives from Couverdon, the developer of the neighbourhood, presented the requests to council this week at a public hearing, saying the previously-approved square footage for a future grocery store won’t adequately serve the community anymore. It was approved 19 years ago, and there has been significant growth in the south end of Campbell River over those years, so the need has grown, as well, according to Ross McKeever, director of real estate development and sales for Couverdon. The initial plan for the development was adopted into the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP) in 2003, and the zoning for the particulars of the development was submitted in 2008. It was approved in 2011.

Much has changed at the south end of town since then, McKeever says.

The “commercial village” aspect of the neighbourhood is meant to be a full-service amenity for those in the south end of Campbell River – not just those in the Jubilee Heights neighbourhood – and in order for it to serve that purpose, they need “market flexibility” for grocers of all sizes to look at that area as a possibility for a store, McKeever says.

The cap that was placed on the development in 2003 when it was incorporated into the OCP, in terms of the commercial space that would be allowed, was 2,400 sq/m or just under 26,000 sq/ft of grocery servicing.

“That cap limits the attraction for full-service grocers and only provides opportunity for a small-format or more niche market vendor,” McKeever says. “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.”

The market research Couverdon conducted, council was told, shows that the south end of Campbell River is drastically underserved in terms of grocery offerings, and can easily support a much larger grocery store than what was initially approved. Outside of the downtown core, McKeever points out, there are really only two grocery stores in town: Quality Foods at Merecroft Village and Discovery Foods on the highway in Willow Point.

McKeever also pointed out that in the city’s Sustainable Official Community Plan (SOCP), the goal is to have the majority of the population to be within a 10-minute walk of amenities like full-service grocery stores, which isn’t possible under the current proposal.

Two people spoke in opposition to the proposed expansion of the commercial offerings at the Jubilee Heights development at this week’s public hearing, including one of the owners of Discovery Foods, who said his store would certainly lose business should the plan be approved, and former city councillor Larry Samson.

“The SOCP was developed in 2012,” Samson says. “But prior to that, there was significant public input. Within that SOCP, we talked about village squares … and how they should complement but not compete with downtown,” he says, pointing to the page of the document that says they are to be “pedestrian-oriented compact nodes with commercial uses and amenities to meet the daily needs of the residents in the surrounding areas,” which he doesn’t feel the proposed change accurately reflects.

Samson was also on council when it endorsed the “Refresh Downtown” initiative, which he says “highlighted how important it is to keep downtown healthy and vibrant,” which includes having people go there to shop. “If this goes through, I think it’s going to drive more people away from downtown businesses and into the southern area.”

That seemed to be the current council’s overarching concern, as well.

Coun. Charlie Cornfield, for example, said “there’s a reason why the majority of our grocery stores are downtown, and that’s because an objective of this and other councils has always been to maintain the downtown core.”

Coun. Michele Babchuk expressed her concerns, as well, saying she doesn’t see how a grocery store the size of Quality Foods wouldn’t be enough for the area.

“I have some fear that we are going to detract – by putting that (proposed) size of a grocery store at the other end of town – from our downtown core,” Babchuk says.

The final decision on whether to approve the additional commercial space for the development, could happen as early as the June 24 public meeting.

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