Cranbrook city council approved an Industrial Development Permit for a new auto mall development on Theatre Road.
The proposal brings together the Nissan, Subaru and Volkswagon dealerships to a lot located at 1950 Theatre Road, between Home Depot and the Ministry of Lands, Forests and Natural Resource Operations offices.
Council eventually approved the application, as per city staff’s recommendation, but not before discussing some concerns relating to the buildings these businesses would be leaving behind.
“Hopefully the buildings that they’re currently located in will be put to good use — sold in the marketplace,” Mayor Wayne Stetski said. “We don’t want empty buildings along Highway 3.”
Coun. Angus Davis said if you go along Highway 3 there are already empty buildings.
“This is good news and it’s great,” Davis said. “It will attract all sorts of people, but it’s leaving the land behind it in sort of a perilous predicament because first impressions are very important to people when they come into the community.”
He worried that newcomers to the town would only see where the old vacant garages used to be and not the new locations if nobody takes over the old locations.
“I’m in favour of the motion, I just think we have to be prepared to do something in the community,” he said.
Coun. Bob Whetham noted that in Calgary, Chinook Mall was at one point the location of car dealerships back in the 1960s.
“They are actually relatively easy to repurpose because the land is just flat and paved,” Whetham said.
Coun. Gerry Warner shared Davis’s concern about the empty spaces left on the strip.
“There was a time when we had a lively, vibrant and an all filled up downtown,” Warner said. “Then people got the idea that maybe they should go on the Strip, and they went on the Strip for another decade until the Strip became the downtown and the main street, and our downtown is half empty, or at least considerably empty. Is that the kind of planning or development that we really want?”
Warner also brought up city staff’s note that the proposal still needs an in-depth review by the engineering department. He wondered if council could delay the permit until then.
Cross said she was fine with the application, as the applicants are aware that they may have to reapply.
Coun. Denise Pallesen said she didn’t have a problem with the application.
“I don’t think we can stop progression of our city moving forward simply because we might have an empty lot,” Pallesen said.
Coun. Davis also noted that back when the city was trying to find a location for the municipal waste facility, the 22nd Ave. North location was chosen because it was out of the way.
“Now it’s going to be the crowning jewel of all this economic development,” he said. “I’m sure we’re going to have to look at something to have that transfer station relocated to a place where it’s not going to be the centrepiece of whatever’s happening.”
The application was approved, with Warner voting against it.