Warfield council quashes new business idea

“I think they got scared off by 20 people from a community of 1,400. And I don't think that's fair.” ~ Roger Larose

Roger Larose has lost faith in Warfield council.

The Okanagan-based business owner and eight-year village resident questions council’s efficacy after it pulled the plug on a rezoning idea for St. Joseph’s Church.

“I am disappointed,” Larose told the Trail Times Monday. “I think they got scared off by 20 people from a community of 1,400. And I don’t think that’s fair.”

In a three-to-two vote, last week Warfield council kiboshed Larose’s vision to convert the empty church into a retail space.

Warfield Mayor Ted Pahl says there was significant debate over the rezoning, but who voted in favour or against, won’t be public until the Sept. 16 meeting.

“It was a difficult decision as the purchaser seemed like a very professional guy with a solid plan for the building,” said Pahl.

Roger and Tina Larose planned to develop the property, which has been vacant 15 years, into a mom-and-pop shop for antiques, home decor, a woman’s boutique, plus new and used appliances, tools, and equipment.

Before they could proceed, the couple had to ask Warfield council to rezone the Lytton Street lot into General Commercial from its institutional/residential classification.

Written concessions to the bylaw amendment were inked prior to an Aug. 11 public meeting.

Those included, all commercial activity would be restricted to the alley side of the building, and no business operations like signage, inventory, or vehicles would be allowed on Forrest Drive.

Residents opposed to the business plan had their say during the public gathering. A roomful of neighbours voiced concerns about existing Warfield businesses, the current lack of parking and bylaw enforcement, increased traffic on Forrest Drive, and unknown future use of the space.

“The other thing, I think is quite important, is that I already brought up those things with council and put it in writing,” said Larose. “I think the people who showed up at the meeting are using me for a pawn. What I was applying for had nothing to do with bylaw enforcement. Regardless whether they passed me or not, it wasn’t going to solve those other problems.”

The Laroses maintain their shop would not have generated much traffic, as the business was considered a retirement “Kootenay time” venture.

“If there are people already racing down that road (Forrest Drive), then speed bumps should already be there,” Larose added. “My business wouldn’t have changed any of that. And they were worried that if the business didn’t work out, it could end up being a service station or something. We already struck out some of those things in the rezoning application.”

Pahl acknowledged public concern over increased traffic spilling onto Forrest Drive, but said council is reviewing bylaws and bylaw enforcement.

“To ensure if we move forward with certain types of zoning requests we have the tools in place we require to properly enforce infractions.”

At the end of the day, Warfield is down another business, says Larose.

“Warfield doesn’t have a lot of services and just lost a bank,” he said. “It’s not everyday you get someone coming in, wanting to take a chance and improve something like that. I think the community lost out on a good thing, that’s all.”

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