The proponent of a drive-through restaurant and bank says the project will add an estimated 55 jobs to Squamish’s employment pool. But not everyone in town is throwing out the welcome mat.
Since late last summer, Michelle Charlton has been eyeing a former bulk fuelling station site for a new Tim Hortons and CIBC bank. Located on the corner of Garibaldi Way and Government Road, the five lots are currently zoned for tourist commercial use, zoning that allows the drive-through restaurant, but not the bank. Charlton is seeking a bylaw amendment to move the entire project forward.
An in-depth traffic report was undertaken, Charlton said. The Ministry of Transportation (MOT) has signing authority over the project because the site fronts Highway 99. Bunt and Associates Engineering conducted the study, which resulted in the ministry’s stamp of approval.
A three-way stop was recommended at Garibaldi Way and Government Road. A left-hand turn off Garibaldi Way south onto Government Road is also slated, as well as a right-hand turn lane off Garibaldi Way north onto Government Road.
“There is an additional lane being added that would accommodate the northbound right-hand turn movements onto Government,” Charlton said, noting there’s also a left-turn lane on Government onto Garibaldi.
The access point on Garibaldi has been restricted to right-in, right-out movements only to maximize flow, she said. The project dedicates approximately 2,000 square feet of land to the municipality to accommodate the changes.
Charlton expects traffic volumes to be similar to the drive-through bank at Squamish Station. Drive-through banks’ usage usually increases after office hours, she said, noting there’s an added security benefit to not having to get out of one’s car.
The building will incorporate local elements, such as Squamish basalt rock. The landscaping will be in keeping with the standards of the area, Charlton said.
“They will not look like the standard prototypical store,” she said, adding the combined buildings are 8,000 square feet. “I am actually pretty proud of the physical look.”
If the amendment for the drive-through bank is not approved, the existing zoning allows for the project to be adapted into two drive-through restaurants, Charlton noted.
The project won’t negatively impact neighbouring businesses, she said. Squamish’s only Tim Hortons is already overcrowded and one never hears of banks pushing other banks out of business, Charlton said.
“I think it is pretty much agreed that Tim Hortons has its own clientele,” she said.
The co-owner of Two Birds Eatery disagrees. Onatah Coffee is just across the highway and there’s a slew of ma-and-pa restaurants around the Garibaldi Village Shopping Centre, Carole Bird said.
“I know it is going to affect everybody,” she said.
That includes her own business, Bird noted. The new drive-through could put plans to expand the eatery into a 24/7 restaurant, and the addition of second-level meeting rooms, on hold, she said. The expansion equals an estimated 24 jobs.
Council seems inclined to take whatever business proposals come its way, Bird said. She hopes lawmakers will have more foresight and create a community like Salt Spring Island or Ladysmith, which limit drive-throughs and chain outlets.
“That is why people go there,” Bird said.
Eivind Tornes, the owner of the Shady Tree Pub, doesn’t share Bird’s sentiment. Rather than taking away business, Tornes believes the project will bring new customers to the area.
“This property has been an eyesore for the last 25 years, and I am happy to see a change in use from an ‘alder plantation’ to businesses that will create both work and bring something to the community,” he wrote in an email to The Chief.
The traffic recommendations will make the intersection safer, Tornes said.
“Presently, this Garibaldi Way intersection is not working very well at all,” he said. As for drive-through traffic, there are already gas stations on all the other corners and everything runs smoothly, he said.
The district needs to examine its policies regarding drive-throughs, Coun. Patricia Heintzman said. She plans to suggest to council that language is placed into the Official Community Plan (OCP) to discourage such facilities and that they be taken out of the tourism commercial use zoning designation— ultimately eliminating zoning in which they’re permitted.
“It would be hard to know if that recommendation would affect this particular proposal,” she said, noting the project is well into the application process.
Tofino is one example of a community that doesn’t permit corporate entities from setting up shop, a move which helps the town keep its character and vernacular architecture, Heinztman said.
“We already have a lot of [drive-throughs], so I think we have enough,” she said.
The project will go to a public hearing on Tuesday (Nov. 20), at 6 p.m. at municipal hall.