GAIL MARTIN, Independent Editor
Woolwich councillors have reversed its previous approval for a Dollarama store at the Elmira Foodland.
The decision came at the Sept. 25 council meeting, one week after committee-of-the-whole had approved the dollar store.
The reversal came about, in part, because two councillors were absent at the Sept. 18 committee-of-the-whole meeting — Allan Poffenroth, and Mark Bauman.
At the Sept. 25 meeting, Poffenroth, who owns commercial property in the downtown core, declared a conflict of interest.
The remaining councillors split the vote, resulting in a tie, which defeated the motion.
At the Sept. 18 meeting, township staff had recommended against supporting the 9,000 to 12,000 square-foot Dollarama store for the Foodland property, citing concerns on how the store could negatively impact downtown Elmira.
That perspective was underlined on Sept. 25, when Ann Tomadini, owner of the Elmira Dollar Store, told councillors that a Dollarama at the south end of Elmira would hurt her business.
“I feel we have a downtown to be proud of, one that’s worth saving,” said Tomadini. She referred to a township-supported market study in her comments, noting the study “clearly shows putting a Dollarama (there) would have a serious impact.”
Tomadini reminded councillors that her store was a small one, and not part of a larger chain.
“We’d be forced to close, probably within months.”
However, Hugh Handy, representing Sobeys, told councillors that he felt the Dollarama would be a good fit.
“We feel the proposal before you is appropriate for the site, and has been scaled down considerably,” said Handy.
Sobeys has made several different proposals for the Foodland site, including expansion of the grocery store, the addition of a wine and liquor store, as well as a reduced-size pet store, in addition to the Dollarama.
Based on input from township staff, the application was revised considerably, to simply include the request for the Dollarama store.
“We recognize the importance of the downtown,” said Handy, but he pointed out that the designation for the Foodland property is service commercial, allowing a wide range of uses that fit that designation.
“We feel this will complement our site,” said Handy.
When it came time to vote, councillor Mark Bauman said that he struggled with the decision, but felt he couldn’t support the Dollarama proposal.
“I agree with free enterprise, but I also think this council has made an effort to revitalize the downtown core, and this will hurt it,” said Bauman.
He asked for a recorded vote.
Councillor Julie-Anne Herteis reiterated her position from the previous week, saying that she had received support from the community to approve the Dollarama.
“We’re going to end up bringing 1,200 people here,” said Herteis, referring to the addition of the Lunor subdivision to the west side of Elmira. “We are going to need more businesses, more jobs, to keep people here.”
Bauman and mayor Todd Cowan voted against the Dollarama proposal, while councillors Bonnie Bryant and Herteis voted in favour. Because it was a tie, the vote was defeated.