Dealership decision on hold

Okotoks: Location opposed by nearby homeowners

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 12:33 pm

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MD of Foothills council has decided to hold off on making a decision about whether a car dealership will be allowed to move forward just north of Okotoks.

Southridge Chrysler made a third attempt to get approval from the MD of Foothills to build a new location along highway 2A just north of the Okotoks boundary last week.

After a June 4 public hearing on the proposal, MD reeve Larry Spilak said they’ve decided to study the area further before making a decision to approve or deny the application made by Southridge Chrysler owner John Gotch.

Gotch is hoping to relocate his dealership from its current location on Southridge Drive to a new 4.4 acre parcel along Highway 2A.

“We are on a two acre parcel, it’s not enough space. It’s simply too tight and we need more space,” Gotch said in council at the public hearing on June 4.

He’s hoping to build a 30,000 square foot building with 341 parking stalls on the property. This is the third time council has considered Gotch’s application to amend the land use rules on the site, which is currently zoned for country residential.

The application was approved in April 2010 with certain conditions that needed to be met, including fees to be paid within a two-year window. Those fees weren’t paid, which Gotch said was due to a miscommunication, causing the decision to lapse.

The application went back to council in June 2013 and after taking a month to examine the proposal, council denied it saying it was “beyond the scope of development suitable on that size of country residential property.”

That decision was celebrated by many homeowners in the area who voiced their opposition to the project, and many of them returned when Gotch went back to council for a third time June 4.

Residents raised numerous concerns, ranging from traffic, road conditions and water supply issues.

Resident Deb Darbyshire was concerned about the dealership taking test drives near her home. She said she’s seen an increase in residential traffic from the other two car dealerships that are currently located along the highway.

“My son learned to ride a bike last year,” she said. “He can’t ride his bike anymore because it isn’t safe. He’s banned from riding his bike. People come flying down here. They don’t take into consideration the residential traffic.”

David Chernoff spoke on behalf of Edison school which is located next door to the proposed location, and said he was concerned about the flammable materials inside of the dealership and what the lack of water supply would mean if there were another fire. The dealership suffered substantial damage after an accidental fire last November.

Gotch said the proposed dealership wouldn’t be a safety threat to residents, or the 200 children who attend Edison school, and he rejected the notion that his building was a fire hazard.

“At our current location, we’re 30-40 yards from fairly heavy type people activities I don’t accept that we’re unsafe,” he said. “It’s been six months restoring from the fire, it’s no fun. But it was also an accident. If someone has a fire at their home are they no longer allowed to live there?”

Many residents were also concerned about the financial impact the dealership could have on the prices of their homes.

Joe Smith and his wife Lana bought their property in 2001 and just moved into their newly built house a year ago. Now they’re worried about what to do with it.

“If this goes through, our property value, I mean who’s going to want to live next to a car dealership?” said Joe. “Not us. And we’ll never be able to sell it, let alone making money on the property. You’d be stuck taking a huge loss.”

Smith said they didn’t realize there was a possibility of commercial properties moving in since it’s zoned as country residential.

“We assumed that we’d be surrounded by other homes and acreages, not by a mile-long dealership,” Smith said. “As soon as you say yes to one, it opens the door and pretty soon the whole areas going to be commercial.”

A Toyota dealership, which was planned for 100 metres north of the proposed space for the Chrysler dealership, was turned down on the same day as Gotch’s second application. Gotch said plans for other dealerships shouldn’t affect his proposal.

“Each individual application has to stand on its own,” he said. “We didn’t have to contend with a conflicting application this time.”

Despite concerns, Gotch said this time around he felt more prepared to address issues from council and residents.

“The voices matter – they shouldn’t be ignored,” he said. “They shouldn’t be ignored by council and they shouldn’t be ignored by me, and they won’t be, but we have a proposal that was approved before on its merits and it should be approved again on those same merits, it’s the fair thing to do. And I’m going to trust that council will make that fair decision.”


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