A zoning change to allow a drive through at 38 Oxford Street was considered by Tillsonburg Council at its August 9th virtual council meeting.
The drive through will pave the way for a new Starbucks in Tillsonburg according to property owner William Vandekrol of VDK Investments Inc.
“This would really help the south end of the town if we put in this establishment,” said Councillor Chris Rosehart. “It would really spruce it up I think.”
“Certainly this is an exciting project,” said Councillor Penny Esseltine. “I think if everyone works together, it sounds like it would work out fine.”
“The land did originally have a drive through but it has not been used in some time,” said Eric Gilbert, Oxford County’s Senior Planner, in his presentation to council. “It pre-dates the buffet restaurant that was previously occupying the (4,100 square feet) building.”
Eating establishments are permitted in the central commercial zone, but not drive throughs.
“This is typically because most of the lots within the commercial zone don’t have the site area and location suitable for a drive through.”
Originally built for Burger King, the old drive through has been out of use for decades.
County staff indicated a noise study should be provided to demonstrate the proposed drive through will not negatively impact any adjacent residences – similar to one done at the Tim Hortons on Oxford Street when it added a drive through, which led to a 2.4m sand barrier wall and fence along the drive through waiting lane, as well as the use of vegetation, barrier fencing and acoustical screening for the rooftop HVAC units to ensure that resulting sound levels were within MOE guidelines.
Gilbert noted the Town of Tillsonburg’s Economic Advisory Committee, the Downtown Tillsoburg BIA and local Chamber of Commerce all submitted supportive comments toward the application.
Two letters of concern were received, including one from an adjacent property owner at 25 Harvey Street expressing concern about the possible impact of noise air pollution.
Gilbert said County staff believes, due to the size and design of the drive through, it should be modified to allow for a wider turning radius and for larger vehicles.
He said staff has concerns not being able to assess its compatibility with surrounding development without a noise impact study.
“In light of this, and the other complaints that the Town has received from other residents who live in proximity to drive through facilities, planning staff do not support this application,” said Gilbert, “and recommend that it not be approved.”
“With the Town, and the Building Inspector, I think we could implement some of those (measures taken at 73 Oxford Street),” said Rosehart. “It would be the same as what they’ve done at Tim Hortons. Could we not put that in there?”
That would be depend on a site specific noise study, said Gilbert.
“Without a noise study, I’m not sure that staff could design through the site plan process any really effective noise mitigation measures other than perhaps fencing or a wall…”
“How long does the noise study take to complete?” Councillor Deb Gilvesy asked Gilbert.
That process could take up to two months, he replied.
“Why would you not recommend for council to approve it pending a noise study?” Gilvesy asked.
“Because I don’t have the information to assess the compatibility of it,” said Gilbert. “I don’t know what the noise study would say, what the mitigation measures would be required, if it’s financially feasible… that’s all information I don’t have so I can’t say that permitting a drive through at this location would be considered good planning in this case.”
Vandekrol, in his presentation to council, said they have an opportunity to develop the 38 Oxford Street property into ‘something classy and with character.’
“We recognize of course there are a few items that have been discussed already that require improvement in order to be more readily considered for approval,” said Vandekrol. “And we are definitely willing to be flexible and to work with any concerns that may be in place.”
Councillor Pete Luciani wanted confirmation access from Harvey Street would be blocked.
“I’m concerned about egress, going out of this place, how are you dealing with that? It could be you’re coming out onto Oxford Street, which is going to be a major intersection and I have a feeling that left turns coming out of there might be a little bit of a problem,” said Luciani.
What makes the most sense for traffic flow will be something for traffic engineers to determine, said Vandekrol. That might mean accessing Harvey Street.
“Do you have any confirmation on any anticipated hours of operation for the drive through?” asked Mayor Stephen Molnar.
“I would suspect it will be fairly typical for what Starbucks has,” said Vandekrol. “I think that would be 9-10 p.m. I would have to look it up but I do not believe them to be a 24-hour operation.”
Molnar specifically asked if the tenant would be Starbucks.
“We have a letter of intent from Starbucks for leasing this property long term from VDK, and the reason why the drive through is so important for us – and for them – is that the letter of intent is conditional on the drive through being allowed on that property so that they can get the proper use out of it,” said Vandekrol.
“If this is approved, will you have site plan control?” Gilvesy asked Gilbert, which he confirmed they do.
“In this case it was identified that site plan approval would be triggered,” he said.
Jesse Goossens, co-owner of nearby properties, expressed his support to council for the project and “the general impact on the southern end of the downtown.”
“From my perspective as a neighbour to this property, I think we have an opportunity that we need to seize… on behalf of other adjacent property owners.”
“When I first glanced at the report overall, the first thing that popped into my head is red tape,” said Gilvesy. “And I hear that from all levels of government. A lot of people talk about it and this is one of those situations where I find this report really exemplifies the ‘red tape.’ And we have to find ways of working with partners to create opportunities. I see this as a great way to support economic development in the downtown core, and especially revitalization of the south end, which is so very needed.”
Councillor Chris Parker asked Geno Vanhaelewyn, Tillsonburg’s Chief Building Official, whether it would be possible to do a noise study throughout the site plan process so that construction could start.
Vanhaelewyn said conditional permits could be issued to start construction, but the applicant would have to understand they are conditional related to the drive through piece.
“This is an opportunity to have international investment in our downtown core,” said Parker. “I think this is going to bring more people into our downtown core and it will definitely spruce up the south end. I think everything about it is positive and we need to make sure we do this as soon as possible.”
“I think that given the fact that Mr. Vandekrol and his associates have indicated that they are amenable to working with the results of a noise study, and using the information from that to make sure that the drive through is acceptable to businesses and residents in the area – they’ve spoken to that and not disagreed with it,” said Esseltine. “I think we could put a condition on the motion that, ‘subject to a sound study…’ We’ve got problems right now on north Broadway with sound from drive through restaurants and it’s been going on for years.
“So to jump into something like that without making a point that the sound study is important… if we just disregard that and it does turn out to be a problem because we haven’t sort of followed up on that, then we’re asking for problems because we’ve experienced those problems before.
“I think we should include that (noise study) in the motion,” Esseltine added. “I think that’s an important piece, as well as the site plan approval. They want a building that’s lovely and appropriate and works for the town as much as we do.”
“This project is huge for the south end of this town,” said Rosehart. “I think we majorly need this to make this end of town start to turn around and I think it will be a huge improvement. And I appreciate what they are bringing here.”
“I am at least encouraged that the applicants will work positively,” said Molnar, “and I would hope that we’re all… from what I’ve heard is everyone working towards the same common end.”
In a recorded vote, as requested by Councillor Parker, the zoning change to allow the drive through at 38 Oxford was unanimously approved. Deputy Mayor Dave Beres was absent for the discussion and vote.
A bylaw will be brought forward at a future council meeting, and following its passing there will be a 20-day appeal period.
The next council meeting is Sept. 13.