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Residents raise concerns over proposed retail outlet

Property owner applies for zoning amendment

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Concerns are being raised about a proposed retail store on the ground level of a Victoria Street triplex.

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Nathan Kew has applied to Norfolk County for official plan and zoning bylaw amendments to open a store in his residential property at 6 Victoria Street in Simcoe.

It’s a property that was in such bad condition, Kew considered tearing it down.

“It was a hard year,” Kew told Norfolk County councillors at a public hearings committee meeting Tuesday. “I couldn’t collect rent as there were people coming and going all the time.

“I would find people passed out, beer cans all around them and I’d have to call paramedics and police.”

Kew recalled entering the home to find a layer of filth on the floor, nicotine stains dripping down the walls, piles of garbage and rats everywhere.

Kew is proud of the work he has put into the property and has received praise for his efforts from people passing by the residence.

Kew lives in the tri-plex and is looking to convert the ground floor into retail space.

But neighbours, while applauding his rehabilitation efforts, fear the retail outlet Kew wants to open will be a cannabis store.

They say there are better places for cannabis shops and allowing one at 6 Victoria Street would be bad planning.

“At the end of the day, the type of use is critical,” Robert Kennaley said at Tuesday’s public hearing. “You need to ask yourself whether or not this type of retail use would be appropriate or not in any of the areas where mixed residential commercial is allowed.”

Kennaley, who lives nearby on Norfolk Street South, argued the county has already decided what type of retail should be allowed in a commercial-residential area and has limited it to a convenience store.

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Allowing a cannabis store in residential-commercial areas goes beyond what the county envisions and could lead to other problems, Kennaley said.

“Where’s it going to stop?” Kennaley said. “Cannabis, guns, porn, adult products.

“From a planning perspective you (the county) need to think and consider that the type of retail matters.”

But Kew, in his presentation, said his application is a retail conversion on a property that he worked on to improve. He also argued Tuesday’s meeting was about a zoning change and not what type of business would be located in building.

“This is a great location with already existing parking which makes the property much more attractive for a downtown retail space,” Kew said. “This property currently could be a corner store, private club or laundromat.

“I don’t think retail is too far fetched.”

Anyone with concerns can register their objections with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, Kew said.  The commission oversees and approves cannabis retail operations.

Councillors also heard from other residents including including Ruth Anne Carlyle, who will soon be moving into the neighbourhood.

“The downtown area has many empty retail stores which would be a more appropriate place for this type of outlet,” Carlyle said in a letter to councillors. “Our downtown core unfortunately has undergone a significant negative transition over the past few years.

“We have lost several solid businesses whose stores remain empty.”

The committee accepted the presentations and submissions for information.

The proposal will be reviewed by staff and brought to councillors at a later date for a decision.

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