It was too late in the process but the Williams Lake Central Business Improvement Area Association registered its concerns with the new development at Prosperity Ridge Tuesday.
The type of development was not up for discussion as the land in question is already zoned and permits a mix of retail, office and restaurant space. On Tuesday, council sought public feedback on building form and character. It is expected the 10,000 square feet of retail space will consist of six storefront stores.
But Judy O’Neill, executive director of the WLCBIA, is concerned that the new development will draw traffic away from the downtown core, an area the City has been working to rejuvenate over the last few years.
O’Neill further pointed out that the development is at odds with the recently adopted Official Community Plan that states: “Policies in the OCP which continue to direct retail, food and beverage, entertainment and institutional uses can help create a positive experience that will help to strengthen existing businesses and encourage new commercial growth. Furthermore, offices should be encouraged to locate in the downtown to reinforce the vitality of the downtown.”
According to the City, the former Official Community Plan, under which Prosperity Ridge was zoned, did not prioritize downtown development over the development of other commercial areas in the City.
“It is now recognized that the downtown will need to be a focal point and a priority for new development and redevelopment in order to remain healthy and sustainable,” says the new OCP.
At this point, O’Neill says, the WLCBIA is simply going to have to deal with the development.
“We’re going to have to plow ahead and realize what’s in that OCP. In the future it might be good but right now we’re going to have to deal with several spots up there that are already under the old zoning.”
O’Neill says the WLCBIA is in favour of big-box stores coming to town as they are a draw for shoppers who may then access other shopping opportunities in the community. She says the organization is not opposed to the competition brought by smaller stores but the drawing away of foot traffic.
Council pushed ahead with the development permit; however, counsellors noted it could challenge the rejuvenation of downtown.
“We have open spaces downtown,” said Coun. Geoff Bourdon who owns a downtown business. “We want strong businesses and competition breeds stronger business, in my opinion, so I do support it.”
Coun. Laurie Walters suggested in the future the City should have a dialogue with developers to talk about the requirements of the Official Community Plan.
Mayor Kerry Cook voiced her support for the development.
“This is no surprise to the community,” Cook said. “This was brought forward a number of years ago.
“We like a vibrant and healthy downtown core and we’re working with the WLCBIA for strategies to attract and retain businesses in the downtown.”