The gas station proposed for Arthur Street South and Earl Martin Drive in Elmira has been approved. Construction is expected to begin in May.
This will be the third gas station, and fourth carwash in a 700-metre radius at the south end of town.
Grant Castle Corp. needed approval from the township’s committee of adjustment to include a convenience store, as there was a rule that only one convenience store was permitted in the area. Approval was also needed to increase the size of the convenience store larger than normally permitted. Both requests were approved by the committee of adjustment. The 20-day appeal period ended with no one filing an objection.
The township’s fee to file an appeal is $500, which is accompanied by another fee from the Ontario Land Tribunal.
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At an August committee of adjustment meeting, Bill Scott, a nearby resident, presented his concerns about the gas station.
“By adding this [gas station], now we’ll have three gas stations with convenience stores and four car washes within 700 metres,” he told committee member. “I really am challenged to see what the justification is for Grant Castle to locate in that particular part of Elmira.”
He was also concerned the gas station would cause more traffic congestion in the area with people turning into it from Arthur Street, with no expansion of the road scheduled any time soon.
Rachel Bossie, a planner with the GSP consulting firm who presented the minor variance request to the committee of adjustment, says she does not think the gas station is an inefficient use of land, adding a gas station falls under the zoning usage, and she believes there is a need for the gas station.
“I don’t believe that it is an under-utilization of land in terms of quantity of gas stations in the area. I think it’s shown that Elmira has that need and there’s a lot of through traffic kind of going to other areas in Ontario. So that area has been proven to need more gas stations than just to serve the immediate community,” she said.
Bossie said she did not have the data proving that the gas station was needed, but that Grant Castle Corp. personnel had gathered those numbers.
Peter MacEwen is the owner of MacEwen Petroleum and Grant Castle Corp. When asked to provide the data proving the need for this gas station, he said it was proprietary and confidential, and would not release it.
“When we make these decisions, we look at the volumes that are going through the competition in the market. And then that’s what we were looking at,” he said.
“We’re investing a lot of money, and we think that it’s a reasonable risk to take, given the offering that we’re going to be bringing to the community,” he said.
Woolwich planner David Gundrum said a gas station is a permitted use at the site. Whether or not a gas station should go on the site was never up for debate.
“The existing zoning outright permits a gas service station use on that site, regardless of how many others may be in the nearby area,” he said.
“As planners we can’t control for what market supply and demand may dictate. And in this case, I would say the owners of the property, they’ve obviously done their own homework to determine whether or not it’s feasible from a business standpoint to have a gas station on the site or not.
“We can’t control necessarily what the market dictates if we have established land use rights already in place. As a planner, it’s not my place to interfere with those land use rights which have already been established within existing zoning,” he said.
“But from a pure use and development perspective, if there’s no hang-up in any zoning requirement, and the use is permitted, we really don’t have any legal means that we can trigger. It’s not something that we should really be wading into whatsoever because we would be attempting to deny somebody their development right, which they’re entitled to.”
Gundrum noted that the township is releasing a new zoning bylaw for public review next year. He says the best way to have a voice about development and planning is to stay engaged.
“If you are circulated on an application, and then you have a concern, by all means, reach out to the township and express your concerns. If you don’t engage in the process, you don’t have a voice. But if you do engage, you certainly have a voice and you can become part of the process.
MacEwen expects the gas station to be complete in October 2023.
“We’re looking forward to being there and being part of the community,” he said.