At the November 2 meeting of Ladysmith Town Council, Council passed the third reading of a bylaw that will allow for the creation of a 15-unit car lot next to the Cenotaph. This bylaw will permit motor vehicle sale and rental.
The applicant, Bill MacMunn of GP Vehicle Sales provided an overview of the proposed site development and business operation. In response to questions from members of Council, he assured that stock will be mainly pre-owned vehicles, with a focus on selling green-powered, electric and hybrid vehicles. Signage will be in keeping with the heritage nature of the Browsorium building, which they said would be restored as part of their development plans. Phillip Oldridge, one of the partners in GP Vehicle Sales, informed Council that he is also President and Chief Executive Officer of Green Power Motor Bus Company, and is committed to facilitating public access to green-powered vehicles. He stated that the business model for the company does not involve selling older used vehicles that do not support the company’s green power focus.
Those in attendance raised questions and concerns, from traffic to security, and the idea of a “used car lot” next to the Cenotaph.
Councilor Rob Hutchins suggested that 50 per cent had to be “green.” This was thought to be unrealistic, especially in the beginning. As a result staff and the proponent negotiated a 20 per cent level of electric and/or hybrid vehicles that GP Vehicle Sales would have to maintain for sale or lease. This begs the question, can the Town set controls on what products a retailer must sell? For example, is this not like telling a fashion shoe store that 25 per cent of their stock has to be men’s work boots?
What happens, if after the final reading is passed, granting permission to establish the car lot on the site, the owners find the cost of restoring the Browsorium building much higher than estimated? Can the Town force GP Vehicles Sales to complete any restoration regardless of budget and cost?
We should consider better uses for this site, such as those that will also showcase the charm and beauty of Ladysmith. How about a beautiful new City Hall, sitting proudly on the crest of the hill next to the place where we honour our veterans and war heroes?
I hope that the members of Council will look at this issue closely and how it will affect the Town before they cast their final vote on the proposal.
Don’t get me wrong. In principle, I think GP Vehicles Sales’ proposal is good. It’s just not the right location.
But a great place for a new City Hall. I am sure we can find another location that gives this progressive and environmentally-friendly company the opportunity to develop. With support from the Town, we can work towards making Ladysmith the “Electric Car Capital of the Island” if not all of B.C.
At least that’s as I see it!