By Angelica Ingram
Jan. 10 2017
The building that was once home to the Wilberforce library branch could have a new purpose if a zoning change bylaw is approved by council.
The building located at 2307 Loop Rd. is on municipal property and has been declared surplus land by Highlands East council.
It was used as a library until the summer of 2014 when a new facility on Holmes Road opened its doors. The municipality has submitted an application to amend the zoning of the property from an institutional zone to a general commercial zone to allow the building to accommodate an “outfitter” business.
The potential buyer would like to turn the building into a business for the purpose of organizing and supporting canoeing and kayaking excursions according to the municipality.
“The primary role of the business and land use would be to provide a base of operations which would include office space storage and retail space and a meeting area for training and co-ordination” said Highlands East planner Chris Jones in a report to council.
At a public meeting held on Jan. 9 during the regular council meeting Highlands East clerk Irene Cook said there had been no written submissions regarding the file.
Jones said he was fully supportive of the use in the location. As the property itself is very small and has a small holding tank and limited parking there are some “general feasibility issues with it” he said.
Jones said he would not recommend it be used for a commercial business such as a restaurant or hotel for example.
The planner suggested he redraft the zoning bylaw and include limitations on the type of business the commercial zoning would allow.
Wilberforce resident Hilda Clark spoke to the matter saying she had many interests in the property including being a neighbouring property owner a warden of a nearby church and chair of the historic Wilberforce Red Cross Outpost which is across the street from the former library.
One of Clark’s biggest concerns was the size of the property and the limited parking in front.
“We do use it for parking” she said referring to the Outpost mentioning it gets used particularly during the Canada Day festivities.
Clark questioned whether the parking area in front of the building was included in the sale of the property.
She also inquired as to whether tour groups will be meeting at the location and if there would be a retail component to the business.
Councillors said they weren’t sure about a retail component but that it would be permitted in the new zoning.
“It’s not always the first applicant you’re worried about. It’s what comes after” said Clark.
Deputy-reeve Suzanne Partridge who chaired the meeting in Reeve Dave Burton’s absence agreed.
Councillors and Jones said they wanted to allow a retail use at the property but not much else.
The property was declared surplus by council in January 2014.
The zoning amendment bylaw will be brought back at the Jan. 23 meeting of Highlands East council for approval.