The proposed site plan, showing the configuration of the drive thru, other parking, and the relocated parking lot access to the property. (City of Grand Forks meeting agenda)

The proposed site plan, showing the configuration of the drive thru, other parking, and the relocated parking lot access to the property. (City of Grand Forks meeting agenda)

Grand Forks may yet see Tim Hortons development

The City of Grand Forks heard plans on Monday at council.

How about some donuts, eh? Grand Forks might once again be on the precipice of getting a Tim Hortons development, but council isn’t thrilled with the location for the proposed development.

Council considered granting a development permit to the project at Monday night’s regular council meeting. Planner Ryan Siersma, on behalf of the developer and the landowner, was present at the meeting to do a presentation detailing the design, site plan and other factors, as well as answer questions from council.

The proposed location is in the south end of the existing Save On Foods parking lot north of Central Avenue, and will have a drive-thru in addition to the 40-seat proposed restaurant and outdoor patio. The drive thru, according to the site plans, will be a “double stack,” or double-lane drive thru.

The owners of the franchise will be Paul and Beryl Stawarz, who own eight other franchise locations in the South Okanagan and have been in business for 26 years, according to Siersma.

Siersma said planners expect 1,200 to 1,500 customers per day, 70 per cent of those through the drive thru.

Through follow-up questions with the restaurant owner, the Gazette has learned that the restaurant is expected to operate 24 hours a day, and the plans are based on local traffic.

The design elements (constituting “form and character”) will include light wood, tiling, gabled roofs and red accents.

“We don’t just want it to look like a Tim Hortons. We want it to look like a made-in-Grand-Forks Tim Hortons,” Siersma said. “We believe its consistent with neighbouring development and policy in the community.”

During discussion, several of the councillors said they were not in favour of the location, though they weren’t opposed to the development itself. Coun. Bev Tripp raised concerns about parking in the plaza, especially during the busier summer months, and the availability of RV parking.

“I am a Tim’s fan, I had to wean myself off Tim’s when we moved here, but I am not in favour of this location in any way, shape or form,” Tripp said, citing congestion and traffic in the parking lot.

However, Siersma said in response that the parking in the site plan meets and exceeds the requirements, with a planned 93 spaces.

Meanwhile, Coun. Colleen Ross expressed strong opposition to the project, and commended neighbouring city Nelson and its council for taking strong action on disallowing further drive thrus in the city.

Coun. Chris Hammett noted that it was not council’s role to approve or deny the project, but that she hoped the presence of a Tim Hortons would allow Grand Forks to be “the last stop of the night” for highway traffic.

“When this came us I had concerns about location, proximity to downtown and congestion, but I see it is not our role to approve this. It is not city property, it is private land and providing they get the permits, form and character is what we have a say on,” Hammett said.

“They can stop and eat and maybe get a hotel or motel, and stay and toodle around town the next day. It’s an economic boost, I don’t see it hurting downtown, they are still because they are funky and trendy, it will bring more people downtown,” she added.

Siersma said that concerns from neighbouring businesses would be addressed through agreements with nearby properties for parking, as well as increased signage that the developer would be adding to give visibility to the businesses in the back of the property.

“Visibility has been a concern with through traffic, and we are working with signs to direct traffic into those stores, and expanding potentially their signage,” he said.

Siersma said they are proposing naming the plaza the Boundary Heritage Shopping Centre, and will be using light woods, tile and gabled roofing to create a “cottage” or “living room” aesthetic for the development.

“I know they are young people who look at this as an opportunity to get their first employment and that is fabulous,” Ross said. “What would be great is, why not ban plastic straws, be brave … I don’t want to start seeing Tim Hortons cups on the side of the road.”

In response to Coun. Ross’ concerns regarding environmental sustainability, Siersma said that creating infill development (developing where there was already infrastructure in place), is good environmental practice.

“You’re taking surface lot and using existing infrastructure, you’re growing out not up in your downtown core, you’re not paving more land,” he said.

Council also considered the location and the impact on other local businesses, but ultimately several of the councillors said they did not consider Tim Hortons as a treat to existing coffee shops or restaurants, and were pleased by developer interest.

“We depend on commercial and industrial tax base and the mill rate to sustain us…especially in a time when we have lots of assets to rebuild, and we can’t go back [to residents] and put that burden on them,” Hammett said.

“I’m still going to go to Jogas for my eggs Benny,” she added, “because I can’t get that at Tim Hortons … But at 10 o’clock at night if I feel like a coffee or an Iced Capp, I know where I’m going to get one, and I can’t get it right now.”

Coun. Julia Butler said that while she was of mixed feelings on the development personally, she recognized the enthusiasm for the project locally.

“I am having a hard time speaking to this issue because I know it is something the community really wants,” she said. “I can’t argue with anything in the form and character, which we have responsibility for.”

In response to a question from the gallery about why council would support a Tim Hortons, especially while so many downtown businesses are struggling post-flood, Butler clarified council’s role in approving the permit.

“At this point what comes before us is a development permit, they have to reach the zoning requirements, and if they meet them I have no legal authority to deny the permit, and if I do I put the city in a legal situation,” she said. “If they meet the requirements I have to approve it the only way we can prevent this is to…put stipulations in the zoning bylaw that prevent drive thrus.”

Council voted to approve the development permit for the “40 seat, freestanding restaurant, drive-thru and outdoor patio” to be located at 441 Central Avenue.