GAIL MARTIN, Independent Editor
Woolwich councillors have lent their support to the addition of a dollar store to the south end of Elmira, in opposition to a recommendation from township staff.
The application, from Sobeys Capital Incorporated, which owns the property, would see the addition of a 9,000 to 12,000 square-foot Dollarama in the Foodland building at 315 Arthur St. S.
This is a change from a previous application that would have expanded the existing Foodland store, and added a wine or beer store to the property.
The application was changed after a peer review market analysis provided to the township suggested any addition to the existing Foodland store would make it virtually impossible to have a grocery store return to the core.
The zone change application also sought a reduced-size pet and pet supply store, but that request was dropped at the Sept. 18 committee-of-the-whole meeting.
Dan Kennaley, director of planning and engineering, told councillors that he felt the Dollarama would have a detrimental impact on the downtown core of Elmira, something the township’s official plan is designed to protect.
“It’s going to hurt the downtown,” said Kennaley.
He noted that the current zoning for the Sobeys property permits service commercial uses, not full-scale retail operations, like Dollarama.
However, Roslyn Houser, representing Sobeys, told councillors that they felt a store the size of the proposed Dollarama would not be able to have a negative impact on the core, as it represents 12,000 square feet of retail space, compared to the nearly half a million square feet that already exists.
Houser also criticized the peer review, which took into account additional uses in the downtown core that do not yet exist, such as a grocery store returning to the vacant Freiburger’s property, as well as the retail development associated with the Lunor subdivision.
“The timing of both are uncertain,” said Houser.
Ultimately, said Houser, the biggest concern is what role the township should be playing in a competitive marketplace.
“My argument is the question of competition with stores in the core should not enter into the application,” said Houser, although she added Sobeys would be willing to meet with the township to discuss ways it could lend additional support to the downtown.
Mayor Todd Cowan, in his comments, pointed out that much of Canada’s economy has been built on protectionism, citing marketing boards in support of egg and dairy farmers as an example.
“We have to make sure we don’t have everything taking away (from downtown), so we don’t have a downtown shell that invites vandalism when it’s empty,” said Cowan.
However, councillor Julie-Anne Herteis said she felt Sobeys had “bent over backwards” to try and make its request something the township could consider.
Herteis said she felt the township needed to “look to the future.”
“I believe we need to create the new jobs, bring money into the township and keep it here,” said Herteis.
Cowan put forward the motion supporting staff’s recommendation. Herteis voted against it, resulting in a tie, as both councillor Mark Bauman and Allan Poffenroth were absent from the meeting. Councillor Bonnie Bryant, who was chairing the meeting, broke the tie against the recommendation.
Councillors then supported an alternate recommendation that would approve the zone change.
The motion will need to be ratified at next week’s council meeting, set for Sept. 25, before it becomes official. A bylaw would then come back to council for ultimate approval.