The relocation of Van Isle Ford to a portion of Stirling Field on Beaver Creek Road is a step closer to reality.
Port Alberni city council voted in favour of three readings of zoning and official community plan amendments at their meeting on Monday night. The matter has been forwarded to the Ministry of Transportation for approval but still requires a fourth reading at council.
The move was made despite opinion being split about the matter at an earlier public hearing.
Van Isle Ford president and principal owner Will Pulford has applied to move his dealership from Johnston Road onto a one hectare portion of the field where he plans to build a 15,000square foot facility.
Valued at $468,000, the land is presently zoned Commercial Recreational District and Institutional District and requires a Highway Commercial District designation.
At the two-hour public meeting, 17 people listened as some made their pitch either for or against the project.
Two businesses, Colyn’s Nursery and The Howard Johnson Hotel, spoke in favour of the move. Others spoke against the location but not the dealership. Several spoke in favour of the waterfront study that is underway.
The Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations spoke against the move. The tribes are participating in a waterfront study north with the city and port authority, the parameters of which encompass the area.
Tseshaht isn’t opposed to the development but rather the location of it, tribal chief operating officer Cindy Stern said. “Approving the move will significantly impact the study,” she said. “The location could affect how we develop the waterfront.”
If the development goes ahead, the Hupacasath will ask for a rigorous archeological impact study of the area as well as an accommodation impact agreement, Hupacasath chief councillor Steven Tatoosh said.
A car lot won’t benefit the area, said Carolyn Jasken, of Port Alberni’s Tyee Club and Ultimate Fishing Town Committee.“Investors are laughing at us because we continue to get it wrong,” she said.
The development could create a slippery slope, she added. “What’s next – allowing 30-foot boats to be launched from Harbour Quay or an Ikea at Clutesi?”
The move is part of a franchise agreement with Ford and has to be done, dealership owner Will Pulford said.
He looked at every available piece of property in the city and Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, but chose to stay in the city. There is a comparable piece of property elsewhere, but it is privately owned and making it work would require him to increase vehicle costs by $2,000 to $3,000, he said.
The new facility will be as tasteful looking as the Toyota Dealership, have a West Coast feel to it, meet environmental regulations and provide more jobs, Pulford said.
He was clear though that “I will not debate where I want to put my business.”
In response to a question from acting mayor Jack McLeman at the subsequent council meeting, city manager Ken Watson said that third reading signifies “general consensus that the bylaw should be advanced.”
A motion that would have encouraged Pulford to consult with the Hupacasath was defeated. The motion is akin to new information, which cannot be received after a public hearing is closed.