Maybe it's just me, but there seems to be a cone of silence over the proposed new mall in Quathiaski Cove. Is this because the zoning isn't at issue, so it's essentially a done deal and therefore a non-story?
The property at the corner of Harper and Plaza Roads is indeed zoned commercial, so the proposed new 5000+ sq ft Peoples Drug Mart/Medical Centre legitimately falls within zoning criteria. According to the Strathcona Regional District minutes' staff report in August, a number of bylaw variances accompanying this proposal were brought forward and duly accepted; yet it seems no public information was offered such that islanders might have discussed the viability of the variances before
they were accepted. It seems odd that the only way islanders could learn of this development was if they were in the habit of reading attachments to the Regional District minutes on the labyrinthine SRD website. Perhaps future monthly reports from our Regional Director might shed more light on the project's swift passage at the SRD.
But back to the proposal itself.
The bylaw variances that were presented and accepted at the SRD's August meeting concern parking, a landscaped public walkway, and signage.
Let's begin with the first two. The official off-street parking requirement for a building this size is 48 spaces. The applicants – Ashcon Holdings, the owners of Peoples Drug Mart in Cove Centre – proposed 26 spaces, ostensibly to enable an expansion of the area 'dedicated to the public realm.' It wasn't clear in the RD minutes whether the suggested pedestrian-friendly landscaping and walkway were to be funded by Ashcon, or left for future development.
Another significant bylaw variance in the accepted proposal is the area allocated to the building's signage. While the permissible area for the building's freestanding sign is stated to be 16 square feet, the approved square footage has been bumped to 10 times that figure – 160 square feet. The justification for the tenfold increase, as reported in the RD minutes, seems confused: the staff report states that each of the two individual business signs would meet the existing size requirements; additionally, the sign will be set back from the corner of the property. These two statements don't make sense, nor do they even add up: two signs of 16 square feet each equals 32 square feet, not 160. Even if you add in the soon-to-be-displaced Community Centre's signage at 64 square feet – which the developers have offered to do – the total is only 96 square feet.
Do we really need a sign that stands 16 feet high and measures 160 square feet to advertise two island businesses? Maybe, say, for the Island Highway – but for Harper Road? The pedestrian-friendly values the developers are seeking to protect by minimizing parking stand to be overshadowed by the island's biggest sign!
I'm left with the thought that Quadra has some uneasy history concerning development plans and communication thereof. Remember the Library? The moral of that story was 'a little public due process goes a long way' – especially on a small island.
In closing, may I say once more I look forward to the developers and project supporters taking the initiative to inform their Q Cove neighbours and invite islanders' input.
That is, if they're genuinely looking for community buy-in to their project. Please click here if you want to read the 40-page report in the SRD's August minutes.