After a lengthy public hearing and no shortage of debate around council chambers, the Masonic Hall has been rezoned to allow for furniture storage for Mackenzie Furniture.
The first speaker at the public hearing, which lasted approximately 90 minutes, was Masons treasurer Jim West, who said renting the hall was a necessity for the organization.
“We need additional income to maintain the upkeep of the 1930 heritage building … this is needed for us to keep using that building,” he said, acknowledging the Masons have heard concerns about the proposal.
“If we did not think this was a safe and responsible long-term proposal, we would not be pursuing it.”
Following West, Mackenzie Furniture owner Rob Eby outlined some of the steps the business has taken to address those concerns, including accepting a restrictive covenant on the building that would limit freight loading and unloading times to between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and limit its use to solely his business. Much like the Masons, Eby said this rezoning would play a critical role in plans for a major expansion of the store that are currently underway.
“There is a real absence of anywhere to rent warehouse space in town. We are in the midst of growing our business, are on the cusp on big things, and expanding the business will significantly limit our warehouse area,” he said.
“I really need to have space that is close to the store and I looked and looked and couldn’t find any other option.”
While many stepped forward to support the rezoning, noting the steps Mackenzie Furniture had taken to address concerns and the need for council to support a growing business, there were also several detractors from the proposals.
“Safety is the main issue. McBride and 6th is a very busy intersection and there have already been a number of accidents there … Moose Tot Park is used by families across the city and I have heard concerns from people all around town about an increase in large truck traffic near the park,” said nearby resident Jean Eiers-Page.
“My concern is with safety. Being a child who was hit by a vehicle myself, I know what it is like because I am lucky to be here today … it only takes a second for a child to lose focus,” added Elaine Hupman.
For others, the opposition was based on a desire to keep industrial uses out of residential areas.
“You can really destroy a town with bad zoning decisions … I think we’re going to se a bad precedent with this,” said Bob Thompson.
“If it goes ahead I think it is setting a terrible precedent … you will have a patchwork throughout town of applicants looking to locate light industrial and I don’t think that is what the city should do,” added Douglas McLeod.
When it came time to vote the rezoning was passed by a margin of 5-2, with Mayor Lee Brain and councillors Barry Cunningham, Nelson Kinney, Blair Mirau and Gurvinder Randhawa in favour and councillors Wade Niesh and Joy Thorkelson opposed. While councillors in favour cited the efforts of the proponent and the desire to support small business growth, those opposed cited safety related to the sites proximity to the park.