With more than 70 letters in opposition and a packed gallery for a public hearing Tuesday evening, Penticton city council knew they would be facing another tough development decision.
Once both sides had been heard, council decided by a narrow margin to support the proposed Tim Hortons/gas bar project, voting 4-3 to withhold final approval of rezoning the land until the developer satisfies concerns over traffic and agrees to a clean-up covenant, to prevent another “brownfield site” should the gas station fail.
Along with the Tims (making four in the city), the developers plan to build a convenience store and Federated Co-op gas bar on the northwest corner of Main Street and Warren Avenue, which has been empty for five years, since Lee’s Fusion Kitchen burnt to the ground in June 2009.
The opponents, many from the residential neighbourhood directly behind the property, brought forward a number of concerns about noise and light pollution from the operation, increased traffic through their neighbourhood and the possibility of benzene fumes and car exhaust from idling vehicles affecting their properties.
“It is going to be virtually impossible for this site to become a future brownfield,” said David Longpre, spokesperson for Vancouver-based developer Windridge Properties.
Clean-up and remediation are already part of their lease agreement with the Co-op, he added.
“It is quite clear in writing, and that lease will be registered on the title,” he said, adding that besides a variety of safety measures, Otter Co-op has its own internal program to deal with cleaning up their sites, if needed.
“Gas stations today are quite a bit different from 15 or 20 years ago,” said Longpre.
But his promises to work to protect the neighbourhood, with noise barriers, lighting control and other measures didn’t sway the audience from their concerns.
George Smith, a resident of Roy Avenue, said that it was important to be business friendly, but that shouldn’t override the city’s social responsibility to create a healthy atmosphere for residents. Compared to the restaurants that formerly occupied the site, Smith said the drive thru and gas station would bring with it increased traffic, carcinogenic fumes and potential for intrusive traffic and speaker noise.
“These types of businesses are detrimental to the quality of life in a residential neighbourhood and represent the worst case scenario,” said Smith.
Waiting for a better project might cost the city, he said, but it would be a minor cost compared to the possibility of degrading the neighbourhood. Adrian Pay, manager at the adjacent Superwash, was the sole speaker in favour of the project.
“This corner has long been an eyesore on one of Penticton’s busiest corners, said Pay.
“This is not a positive image for Penticton.
“This will be a complementary business, not only to our business, but to many other businesses in the area.”