Picton BIA discussed potential issues and opportunities with Sobeys’ proposed move
Aproposed move by the Picton Sobeys to a new, bigger location on Loyalist Parkway, across the road from the No Frills is a big change, and has sent Picton’s business community into action mode in an attempt to understand and manage that change in a way that best suits its members.
On Wednesday evening, the Business Improvement Area (BIA) group held a public meeting at the Picton library to provide information to its members and get feedback. The meeting was not well attended, and the members who did attend opted to create a survey to gain an understanding of what absent members needed to know and wanted to see.
A report submitted to County council for a planning meeting on July 19 indicated the BIA had already had a chance to review the proposal, but despite a confidential conversation between the developer and the group’s executive last year, members were not made aware of the proposal until it was made publicly available five days earlier, on a Friday.
“This happens all the time,” BIA administrator Judith Burfoot said at the BIA’s public meeting. “What was said at the council meeting was that the BIA was consulted. In this kind of framework, consultation has a very specific meaning, and telling someone, ‘we’re planning this development, don’t tell anyone’ is not consultation. Consultation is, let’s sit down and discuss it and give us time to talk to our membership and sharing information and sharing feedback. So we certainly objected to that.”
At the planning meeting, Picton councillor Lenny Epstein, who represents council on the BIA, asked council to give the group more time to review and report back. So did BIA secretary Penny Morris and chair Robyn Molyneaux.
But upon the urging of Mayor Robert Quaiff and County CAO James Hepburn, the decision remained to bring the proposal to the August 22 meeting of council for approval, leaving little time for the BIA to respond.
The planner for a proposed housing development that would border the property to the east added that since the provincial government would not allow for more than one roadway opening onto Loyalist Parkway, the parking lot should also be widened to allow access to the development.
The proposed new location would have a larger Sobeys store at the back of the property, along with three smaller stores in independent buildings nearer the road, one with a drivethru and two with patios.
The current Sobeys property may be divided into smaller units for a handful of businesses.
Although the BIA’s borders end at Cold Storage Road, they are concerned about the proposal and the effect it will have on business in town. Specifically, there was concern about the businesses that could move into the smaller buildings.
Especially, the thought of a chain dollar store moving into one of them. Morris referenced a study by the Sobeys developer that suggested the dollar stores that exist in town would see an 18 per cent loss over one year if such a store were to move in.
“When I think of 18 per cent, I’ve been working for six years to see 18 per cent growth. If someone came in in one year and chopped all that off, that’s huge. And people have to pay their staff. That’s huge,” said Morris.
It was an email from an unnamed member who wasn’t present at the meeting that stated what no one else wanted to say.
“If the three new highway buildings proposed have restaurants with patios and parking lot, what on earth does council think will happen?” the letter stated. “If the downtown commercial building owners and their commercial tenants are not protected from strip development outside the town, then the upkeep required by these monarchs would lag… Move the grocery, but don’t allow three new out buildings to compete with downtown. Just look at Belleville to see what we’re in for.”
Members were also concerned that splitting up the Sobeys storefront in what is well known as the Sobeys plaza would mean the plaza would lose its anchor store, and therefore business in its other stores.
“I know for us, people are like, I’ll go to Sobeys and get my groceries and then come back to you and pick up whatever we’re selling them,” said Jacquelyn Kenthol, who co-owns The Source in the plaza. “It draws people in.”
Burfoot said the Sobeys developer is interested in helping with other concerns, such as walkability, by investing in transit or building a sidewalk.
Although the BIA still has work to do—reaching out to its membership for more feedback—the group concluded that by expanding their membership west to Waring’s Corners and working with the developer, they can expect the best outcome.