Red Deer city council gave initial approval to allowing an office-based business into Edgar Industrial Park on Monday.
A majority of councillors did not follow an administrative recommendation to defeat a proposal that seeks to make office use discretionary at Unit 100, 6700-76th St.
Most of council also did not heed Coun. Frank Wong’s warning that the city’s centre will be hurt by allowing offices to locate in too many different parts of the city.
Wong pointed out the door was already opened to some commercial uses in Riverside Light Industrial Park, while there’s a 25 per cent vacancy rate in downtown office space. “You could close down the downtown pretty soon…”
He voted against the Edgar proposal, along with Coun. Buck Buchanan.
While Mayor Tara Veer agreed with Wong’s concerns, she voted with the majority to allow first reading and a public hearing to be held on the matter.
Perhaps “some compromise in our broader planning vision” is warranted, explained Veer — in light of the impact of the poor economy and coronavirus on area businesses.
Council heard the building’s owner had unsuccessfully tried to fill the industrial space in the Johnstone Crossing area for two years, ever since a construction service business vacated it.
The owner now wants to open the space up for more uses. Although the proposal initially also sought day care space, it was later narrowed to just office space.
Council heard Red Deer is well stocked with industrial land for the next 15 years. But senior planner Kim Fils-Aime said her department recommends the proposal be denied because office uses are encouraged in the greater downtown, “and industrial land be preserved for industrial uses.”
She added the property does not possess any particular characteristics to justify a site exception, and Edgar Industrial Park is not in transition towards becoming a mixed-use commercial area, as was Riverside Light Industrial Park.
Council heard the planning department will undertake a wider zoning review this fall. While several councillors suggested it might be prudent to wait, they did not want to tie the hands of the property owner for another few months.
Coun. Vesna Higham said she drives by the site every day and believes it’s suitable for commercial/office use. She agreed with Coun. Tanya Handley that the street is a transitional as it divides industrial and residential areas.
“In these tough economic times…. council can either pivot and adapt, or we will lose industry to more business friendly jurisdictions,” Higham added.
A public hearing on the proposal will be held Aug. 17.