The developers of the Jubilee Heights subdivision in southern Campbell River have seen their request for additional commercial space approved by council, but won’t be getting the bigger grocery store they want.
Not yet, anyway.
At this week’s meeting of council, the city approved Couverdon’s request to amend the Official Community Plan for the development bringing the area being designated as the commercial section of the development up to 6,600 sq/m in size.
For comparison, the commercial node at the corner of Hilchey and Dogwood is approximately 2,700 sq/m. Merecroft Village – including the southern section that houses the cinema – is about 8,700 sq/m.
The developers, however, were also looking to expand the size of grocery store they could host in that commercial area to 4,000 sq/m – up from the previously-approved 2,400 sq/m – which council said was simply too large.
“I believe that’s too big for that particular spot,” says Coun. Claire Moglove. “I think it is, if not technically a big box store it’s on the verge of being a big box store and I think it’s inappropriate for that part of our community.”
The problem with the discussion overall, Moglove says, is that the city is stuck between two ideas that are “slightly in conflict,” of wanting to increase walkability and having people live within close proximity of amenities, but also trying to keep the vibrancy of the downtown core when the majority of the housing development is happening at the opposite end of town.
“Having retail space of 6,600 (sq/m) with smaller stores, absolutely. I can see that,” Moglove says. “But one big, large grocery store, I think is inappropriate.”
Coun. Kermit Dahl echoed those sentiments. He, too, supported the increase in overall commercial area, but wouldn’t support the larger anchor tenant for the node.
“I live in that neighbourhood,” Dahl says. “I didn’t really know how I felt about grocery stores, because I don’t spend a lot of time there. So I talked to my wife. I talked to my neighbours, who also live across the street from Jubilee Heights. I didn’t find one person who lives down there who wants a big grocery store. Everyone want something that’s a Quality Foods or Thrifty Foods size.”
Coun. Michele Babchuk’s main concern was that if they allow a grocery store of that size to open up at the south end, “we might not see a brand new one that compliments everything we already have, but instead see an internal shift in town where one leaves the downtown core and moves there.”
There then some negotiation around the chamber about the size of store that council would see as being a “middle ground” so the developer wouldn’t be limited in the market when looking for leaseholders but also wouldn’t be considered too large for the area.
In the end, council settled on 3,200 sq/m, which is half-way between what was initially approved and the new request. It would allow for a retailer larger than the current Quality Foods at Merecroft Village, but not quite as large as Thrifty Foods.
But that change to the amendment requires that it return for a second public meeting, so even that increase is not officially a done deal yet. It will now come back before council at an upcoming meeting for more public consultation and to allow for the proponent to make their case to council yet again.