A Squamish councillor is concerned that the town’s only cinema could become the community’s latest mini mall.
Garibaldi 5 Cinema closed shop in August. Low attendance and the cost of converting from reel to digital challenged the eight-year-old business’s finances. Last month, the owners of Garibaldi Village Shopping Centre filed an approximate $707,000 lawsuit against U.S.-based company Metropolitan Theatres Corp. for alleged unpaid rent.
Now the theatre’s property manager — Churchill Property Corp. — is seeking to broaden the building’s commercial options. The corporation, which oversees the shopping centre’s operation, has applied for rezoning of the cinema, as its current use limited to a theatre only.
At a Tuesday (Oct. 2) council meeting, District of Squamish’s planning staff recommended the zoning be amended to allow for “additional uses of Fitness Centre, Restaurant, Retail Stores and Indoor Recreation.”
The proposed business list raised alarm bells for Coun. Patricia Heintzman. If all the items were placed under one roof, it would become a mall, she noted. Heintzman called for restrictions on the types of retail and a minimum square footage for each commercial venture permitted in the building.
Coun. Susan Chapelle said she struggled with the idea. Although she, too, had concerns about moving small retail space into the area, Chapelle noted council is calling for economic development in Squamish.
If a cinema was a justifiable business, then Chapelle said she would like to see it built downtown. But overall she noted she doesn’t have a problem with allowing small spaces for start-up businesses.
A bunch of little stores grouped in the building is not what Coun. Bryan Raiser wants to see. He questioned whether the zoning could be tailored to stipulate that some screens remain.
“This is our chance to keep it,” Raiser said.
For a municipality that prides itself on being open for business, such a demand is counterintuitive, Coun. Doug Race said, noting that staff’s recommendation is consistent with commercial uses already in the area.
“I don’t agree that we can dictate to an owner that they should have one or two screens there,” he said.
Although he said he was not comfortable with mandating that the property owners ensure at least one reel keeps rolling, Coun. Ted Prior said he wants municipal staff to make it clear that that’s the wish of the community and council.
“It really is a loss for the kids in town,” he said.
The recommendation to allow the zoning amendment received first and second reading, with Heintzman and Raiser voting in opposition. A public hearing on the amendment will take place at the council meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 16).