Red Deer city Coun. Frank Wong thinks local office/commercial zoning is being spread too widely. (Advocate file photo).

Red Deer city councillor fears more vacant office space in the downtown

Frank Wong opposes more office/commercial space in Riverside Light Industrial Park

Too much office space has been allowed to spread out of Red Deer’s downtown into Capstone, and now Riverside Light Industrial Park, says Coun. Frank Wong.

Wong was the lone dissenting voice on city council Monday: He did not agree with rezoning about 20 former light industrial properties in Riverside to a new “industrial/commercial/mixed use” zoning.

Although several Riverside property owners had been pushing for more flexibility to lease space for offices and other commercial uses, Wong believes Red Deer is spreading its office space too widely.

Just last week, he noted, council reviewed a half-million-dollar grant program to help revitalize the downtown — and now council is effectively allowing downtown companies to leave for the Riverside area, south of Parkland Mall.

“They might think, there’s lots of parking there and land is cheaper, why not move?”

Wong noted the city previously pushed light industries out of the Capstone area in hopes that new offices and commercial outlets would move in.

This hasn’t happened yet, he added. “There haven’t been any land sales” west of Carnival Cinemas — even though the city spend about $50 million on re-aligning roads, relocating utilities and improving a major intersection.

Wong fears some remaining light industries in Riverside that don’t want commercial neighbours might leave for Red Deer County.

But other councillors did not agree. Flexibility is key, said Coun. Lawrence Lee, since some business owners had previously cited the city’s inflexibility as the reason they moved to the county.

He called the initial Riverside rezoning approval a “welcome and long overdue shift…. We have a vision for the downtown, but we have to appreciate that that might not be everybody’s vision,” Lee added.

In starting the rezoning process, Coun. Michael Dawe noted that city council is responding to many existing property owners in Riverside who felt some more flexibility would be helpful.

In many cases, they already had their own offices in their buildings and just wanted to be able to rent to office tenants.

Dawe believes Red Deer has enough light industrial land left for its current and foreseeable needs — “maybe not 10 to 20 years down the road…”

A public hearing on the rezoning a portion of Riverside will be held on June 24. Anyone can send written concerns to the city before that date, or email their opinions during the videotaped hearing, which can be viewed on the city’s website.

Red Deer City Council

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