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'Premature' to consider two private liquor stores being proposed in New West

New West ranks near top of liquor stores in region per capita
Liquor Store - Getty Images
New Westminster's land use and planning committee gave feedback about two retail liquor stores proposed in New West.

The city’s land use and planning committee has downed liquor store applications in the West End and Connaught Heights neighbourhoods.

At its June 21 meeting, the committee received staff reports about two proposed private liquor stores – one that would be located on 12th Street between Eighth and 10th avenues, and another that would be at 810 and 810A 20th St. Council members serving on the LUPC said it’s too early to consider the applications given that work on the upper 12th Street retail strategy and the 22nd Street master plan haven’t been completed.

According to city staff, there are currently 11 private retail liquor stores and two BC Liquor Stores in New Westminster.

Dilys Huang, a development planner with the city, said analysis done by staff shows that of all Metro Vancouver municipalities having a population of 50,000 or more people, New Westminster has the highest number of liquor stores per capita.

“Out of all the other Metro Vancouver municipalities, the only ones that have higher rate than New Westminster, there’s only two – Bowen Island and Pitt Meadows,” she said. “New Westminster is ranked third in terms of the number of liquor stores on a per capita basis.”

Those statistics, however, came near the end of discussions about two private liquor stores being proposed in New West and weren’t cited by LUPC members as reasons for not supporting the applications at this time.

12th Street

For the 12th Street project, staff sought LUPC feedback on potential amendments to the official community plan and the zoning bylaw, which would be required to allow a retail liquor store to open at a yet-to-determined location in the upper 12th Street area. The committee supported a recommendation to direct staff to discourage further consideration of a retail liquor store in the upper 12th Street area.

 A staff report stated some of the points in favour of the proposal include the potential of attracting more businesses to the area and occupying a vacant commercial space.

On the negative side, staff said a retail liquor store is proposed at a nearby location in Burnaby, which would limit the properties that could be considered because of the one-kilometre buffer requirement between liquor stores. Staff also stressed that work on the Upper 12th Street retail strategy isn’t complete.

“Staff would consider this proposal to be premature given that the retail strategy work is still ongoing,” Huang said. “After the completion of this strategy, it is anticipated that there would be more clarity regarding council’s as well as the community’s vision for this upper 12th Street area.”

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, one of three council members on the LUPC, said the community was “very, very vocal” about not wanting a privately owned liquor store on 12th Street. When a previous application was made for a store in the 700 block of 12th Street in 2008, he said many concerns were raised about the proximity to nearby schools.

“We have numerous liquor stores in New Westminster,” he said. “We have both government and private. I feel strongly that we are well served by liquor distribution system in the province.”

Puchmayr supports public liquor stores, saying they provide better wages for employees and stronger enforcement of sales to minors. He also expressed concern about the fact that no specific location had been secured for the store.

Emilie Adin, the city’s director of development services, said no particular site was identified, because staff wanted to take the proposal to a “political body” early and ask if it’s something that would even be considered.

Coun. Nadine Nakagawa also opposed consideration of a liquor store on upper 12th Street at this time.

“We have had some conversations about upper 12th, that we want to see a preservation of the multicultural businesses in that area,” she said. “While I recognize the pros, that it might attract businesses to that area, we are also very sensitive to gentrification and reno- or demovictions of the businesses in that neighbourhood. I think I would prefer to wait for the retail strategy and know how we are going to go about maintaining those retail stores that serve very particular communities.”

Coun. Chinu Das agreed that it’s premature to consider an application while the retail strategy is underway.

The LUPC received a letter from New West resident Joseph Van Vliet, who said he and his parents would own and operate the store. At the June 21 LUPC meeting, he said the intention is to move an existing licence from somewhere else in B.C. to the site.

“Depending on how things went today, we would make the decision to purchase one, most likely from a rural area in B.C.,” he said. “But it wouldn’t be within New Westminster.”

20th Street

The committee also voiced concerns about a proposed retail liquor store on 20th Street. That property, located on the northeast corner of 20th Street and Eighth Avenue, is included in the 22nd Street station area, where council has endorsed a master planning process to create a “bold vision for a climate friendly future.

A preliminary report stated that process isn’t complete, and it’s the city’s expectation that rezoning applications would only be considered once the “bold vision work” and a master plan is created for this area.

Huang said the applicant is proposing to relocate an existing retail store licence from outside of New Westminster to this site. She said staff wanted committee feedback on whether it supports consideration of a zoning bylaw amendment application before the master plan work is complete.

Nakagawa was willing to allow the rezoning application to move forward.

“I hear my colleagues’ concerns that these are not relocations of liquor stores in New West but are new additions to liquor stores in New West,” she said. “I think that’s a really good question of whether or not we want or need more liquor stores in New West in general. My reason for not supporting the 12th Street one for consideration does not apply to 20th Street in the same way. For that reason, I would support it going forward for consideration.”

Saying he’s heard many concerns from community members about issues occurring around some private liquor stores in the city, Puchmayr said he supports government-run liquor stores.

Das thinks it’s premature to consider changes until the city’s planning processes are complete.

“I look at 22nd Street SkyTrain, the master plan coming up; I think we may be rushing into this without seeing what that master plan is going to look like. I am a little bit concerned about that,” she said. “I do know that the traffic congestion at that intersection is quite heavy in both peak hours. … I’ve been in it, I’ve seen it. It is quite difficult to even get through that intersection sometimes, so that would be my concern.”

Puchmayr and Das voted to instruct staff not to proceed with the application, while Nakagawa voted against their motion.

 

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Email tmcmanus@newwestrecord.ca