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Council delays decision on big-box stores

Sixty-one people waiting to speak in debate over Marine Drive zoning

VANCOUVER - A packed speakers' list at Vancouver city hall Thursday night forced council to delay its decision on whether to allow big-box stores on Marine Drive.

Sixty-one people are still waiting to have their say on the controversial topic, leaving retailers such as Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire hanging until later this month.

Council is to decide on three possible options suggested by a city staff report on the use of industrial land between Yukon and Main Streets from Marine Drive to 63rd Avenue.

These include: banning big-box stores altogether; allowing only big-box stores selling large items such as furniture; allowing all big-box stores except those selling groceries.

Paul Tube, a resident of Champlain Heights, spoke in favour of the third option.

"Ease of shopping is really important," said Tube, who is chair of the city's advisory committee on disability issues.

David Chudnovsky, MLA for Vancouver Kensington, said big-box stores in the area would hurt smaller retailers in the riding he represents, which lies northeast of Main Street and 49th Avenue. He said big-box retail would drive traffic north, which he argued is inappropriate near the Canada Line station planned for Cambie Street and Marine Drive.

"We need land use decisions . . . that are consistent with that reality," he said, advocating for densification and mixed use.

The city once allowed industrial land near that part of Marine Drive to be rezoned for big-box retail. But city council imposed a moratorium on new applications last summer after rejecting proposals from Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire. Council also asked staff to review a city policy allowing that type of rezoning in the area.

The staff report was submitted to council in May, and 140 people attended two public information meetings about the report held in June, a memo to council said.

Wal-Mart Canada spokesman Kevin Groh told The Vancouver Sun earlier this week that if council decides to allow big-box stores on Marine Drive, Wal-Mart will submit a new application to build a store on land it owns in the area.

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