The city of Port Alberni is considering temporarily rezoning an area in Harbour Quay to allow for office space.
The owner of a property on Argyle Street, which includes the businesses Blue Door Cafe, Home to Stay and No Boundaries Adventure Gear, applied for a temporary use permit after a business license application was denied for a potential tenant. It was also discovered that the property includes an office space currently operating without a business license.
“The waterfront commercial zone does not allow for office development,” explained director of development services Scott Smith during a council meeting on Monday, July 9. “The original intent of the waterfront zone is that it be primarily for marine-oriented and tourist-oriented activities.”
The property owner, Bobby Toor, is from Richmond and a “relatively new owner,” said Smith. A temporary use permit for the property would allow for office use, but would not be a permanent change to the zone. The permit—which can last up to three years, depending on council’s decision—will be issued for three spaces in the building: two on the ground floor, and one on the second storey.
“[Toor has] made some significant investment in the property,” said Smith. “There have been times when that building has not been well-used or has been vacant.”
Councillor Ron Paulson, who worked in the building for 15 years, said, “In that period of time…two out of three of these locations had been perpetually empty. I applaud the present owner for some of the work that they’ve already done. The building looks totally different.”
Smith said parking is a concern for the area, which only has time-limited parking. “Which works pretty well for retail and other businesses down there, but for an office use there would be no long-term parking for the employees,” he said.
There is some long-term parking in the general area, he pointed out.
Councillor Sharie Minions, who is a business owner herself, said that there is not suitable office space in Port Alberni. “It is an issue we need to address,” she said. “I don’t think Harbour Quay is the right place for it.”
She expressed concern that a three-year term would be too long.
“I think this zoning is in place for a reason because we want that area to be retail, tourist,” she said. “Offices are meant to be in specific areas for a reason and offices don’t draw tourists.”
Councillor Denis Sauvé, however, said that he felt three years would be sufficient.
“We have somebody that not only has purchased the establishment, but has spent hard-earned money into beautification within that area,” said Sauvé. “I’d rather see [offices] than having the space empty.”
Smith said that the change in zoning does not mean the spaces have to be rented specifically for offices.
“[Toor] would like the option,” said Smith. “He’s done the tenant improvements, he would like the opportunity to be able to do that.”
Council was not asked to make a decision on Monday’s council meeting. The city is required to give public notice before a rezoning is considered, and the discussion will come forward again to the August meeting on Monday, Aug. 13.
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