City of Duncan will allow its highway car dealerships to continue operations unhindered by zoning.. (File photo)

Duncan car dealerships win zoning victory

City to change wording on new bylaw to allow dealerships along highway to continue operations

Todd Blumel said he was humbled by the amount of community support his business received at the City of Duncan’s council meeting on Nov. 27.

There was standing room only in council chambers as people packed in to see if the city’s elected officials would give the third reading to zoning changes that would have had drastic implications for car dealerships operating along the Trans Canada Highway corridor through Duncan.

Some were workers from Bow-Mel Chrysler and the Nissan dealership next door, the only two car dealerships operating in Duncan’s highway corridor, but Blumel, owner of Bow-Mel Chrysler, said many were supporters of the two businesses.

After some discussion, council voted unanimously to defer the third reading of its new and ambitious zoning bylaw so staff can make site-specific amendments to the final draft to allow existing car dealerships in the corridor to continue operations unhindered.

“I’m feeling pretty relieved,” Blumel said after the vote.

“Duncan’s official community plan said that while new car dealerships along the corridor aren’t wanted, existing dealerships are welcome to stay and continue their operations. I’m happy to see this is being recognized.”

Duncan’s council has been considering a new zoning bylaw for months that is aimed at simplifying the 30-year-old outdated one currently on the city’s books.

The new bylaw intends to reduce the number of zones in the city from 16 to eight with more flexibility within each zone, and addresses row homes and secondary suits, food trucks, the highway corridor, urban farming, and more.

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But the plan to change the zoning from C3 where Bow-Mel Chrysler, which has been in business for more than 50 years, operates to “highway-corridor commercial”, which wouldn’t allow for new car dealerships in the area, had raised the ire of many in the community

Blumel said city officials told him his business would be considered “legal non-conforming” in that new zone and would be allowed to continue to operate in its long-time location.

“They said it was not a big deal but my accountants have recently told me that if the dealership’s building had major damage due to a fire, or some other cause, I would not be allowed to rebuild under the proposed new zoning,” Blumel said before Monday’s council vote.

“That means I would have to find somewhere else to rebuild. I was also informed that the new zoning would make it much more difficult in finding financing for things like when my mortgage renewal comes due. Finance companies don’t like risk and they want to know who will pay the mortgage if something happens here.”

Blumel said the original proposed new zoning also wouldn’t have allowed for modifications on his existing buildings, and that would have been a major impediment to his business.

“The car industry is forever changing, and soon new electric and vehicles that use other alternative fuels will be coming on line and I will have to modify the dealership to accommodate things like electric-charging stations,” he said.

“I have 35 staff in my business, and there’s up to another 30 at the Nissan dealership next door, and everyone was afraid for their futures.”

Duncan Mayor Phil Kent said the intent of changing the zoning along the highway corridor is to have “high density” developments along that route through the city, and “more flexibility” for different types of development there.

While that zoning does call for no new car dealerships, Kent said council decided at Monday’s meeting to change the bylaw to allow existing car dealerships in the zone to continue their operations under existing rules.

“Staff will change the specific wording in the zoning bylaw and then the bylaw will be brought back before council,” he said.

“But I expect the bylaw will have to go through another public hearing before any final decisions are made.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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