After much deliberation, Steinbach City Council granted ROC Eastman special permission to sell books out of their warehouse space in the Industrial Park.
ROC Eastman, which stands for Recreational Opportunities for Children, currently stores their books in units 9 and 10 at 110 Industrial Road, however, to sell books out of that space, they required a conditional use permit for retail in Industrial zoning. Director Moni Loewen says they plan to hold book fairs in the facility no more than four times a year.
A previous request for the same property was recently denied because the owner of the facility was asking for permission to have retail throughout the whole 25-unit warehouse complex.
This most recent request is specific to just units 9 and 10, however, Councillor Jac Siemens says this still doesn’t fully solve the problem.
“The one issue here that needs to be addressed, that is holding this back is that all the units aren't legally separated.” He adds “Even though you are requesting only 9 and 10, really it is for all of the units. Council is in a dilemma, I am in a dilemma here, if we approve this on a conditional basis, that is fine but it is not 9 and 10, it is everything.”
After a lengthy back-and-forth discussion between city council and the city administration team, Councillor Michael Zwaagstra put forward a motion.
“I'll make a motion to approve, subject to a major occupancy agreement and subject to this being limited to just ROC Eastman.”
Zwaagstra notes he believes these conditions address the major concerns of council.
“If we are actually able to tie this just to ROC Eastman, then if someone else buys the property and ROC Eastman isn't there, then the retail doesn't continue.” He notes “It is a difficult one because I don't like the idea of this being designated as retail but with these conditions, the only thing that is going to happen there is the occasional book sale and I can live with that.”
In addition, City Manager Troy Warkentin says “The intent of a major occupancy agreement is to confirm the acknowledgement from an owner as to the current and future use and occupancy of a building to ensure that the use is appropriate for the land.” He adds “If the owner wishes to change a major occupancy to something other than a permitted use, it requires the appropriate permits and/or a conditional use application.”
That said, Councillor Jake Hiebert was not convinced.
“Retail is retail and light industrial is light industrial. What are we looking at, what do we want this place to be? It is zoned light industrial, do we want it mixed retail? Until such a time as we rezone it, I still take the stand that this is light industrial and I am going with that.”
Similarly, Councillor Damian Penner spoke against the request, noting even though he trusts ROC Eastman and Director Moni Loewen, change can happen.
“I have no doubts that ROC is going to continue to grow and continue to be able to impact the community more and more and more and that is where I am conflicted. They may look at not doing book sales anymore, this may become a different type of retail space.”
Zwaagstra stood by his motion noting he believes this is the most common-sense approach to the matter.
Council approved the request with a 5 to 2 vote. Councillors Jake Hiebert and Damian Penner voted against the motion.