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Retail size restrictions on hold

London Drugs rezoning to proceed without confusion of retail size bylaw

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Council has put the brakes on a controversial bylaw designed to limit the size of retail space in the village.

The decision came at the request of Councillor Gordon McKeever who said the issue of the 5,000 square foot size cap on village stores was getting confused with plans to put a London Drugs in the village more than three times larger than the proposed cap.

Though the London Drugs rezoning does not hinge on council’s decision to limit the size of retail space, McKeever said the two issues were becoming cloudy in the minds of the general public.

"The two events were too closely linked not to form a relationship in people’s minds," said McKeever the day after Monday’s council meeting. "It does muddy the waters for some people.

"We were on the defensive here and we shouldn’t be and that’s why I wanted to distance the two topics."

Because of the confusion, McKeever asked council to freeze the 5,000 square foot size bylaw in the approval process for the time being until a comprehensive study can be done looking at commercial spaces throughout Whistler.

This will allow the London Drugs rezoning to proceed as any other normal rezoning process, whereby the proponents must present valid arguments why recreation space in the village should be changed to allow the chain store.

"The onus is on them to prove the value in their proposal," said McKeever.

Whether for or against a London Drugs coming to Whistler, many were pleased to see the size bylaw taken out of the rezoning equation.

"I think it’s positive that some in-depth study is being done before such a bylaw, with such large implications, is passed," said Jonathan Lazar, who represents Maple Leaf Property Management, the company trying to bring London Drugs to their Whistler Village Centre building.

Local coffee shop owner Chris Quinlan, who runs Behind the Grind, supported council’s decision even though he wants to see the size limit bylaw in place.

"I think it’s good that they put it on hold because it allows us to deal with the issue of London Drugs as London Drugs, as the rezoning," said Quinlan.

The rezoning has sparked a frenzy of letters from community members. In this week’s council package alone there were several letters outlining support for the proposal as well as concerns.

Council has long been considering implementing measures that would protect local enterprise in Whistler. But it was only when the spectre of the 17,000 square foot London Drugs was raised, that municipal staff really got to work on a size restriction bylaw.

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