In an effort to make the Upper Gibsons commercial area more pedestrian-friendly and visually appealing, the town is looking at changing building height allowances and formalizing a ban on future drive-through restaurants.
The zoning bylaw amendment, given first reading Oct. 16 and now under review by the advisory planning commission, would increase maximum height from 10.5 metres to 12 metres. It would also set a minimum building height of eight metres.
The changes were proposed after applicants for two projects — 1001 Gibsons Way and Lot Q Gibsons Way — requested height increases and in both cases, “council has been willing to entertain the possibility,” municipal planner Michael Epp said in his report to council.
Rather than evaluating requests on a case-by-case basis, he said, staff suggested revising the zoning bylaw to allow additional height in the general commercial zone (C-1), which applies to properties fronting on Gibsons Way and North Road.
Epp said the change could stimulate development and would better accommodate the recent preference for higher ceilings, allowing for more creative designs employing pitched roofs. The amendment would also reduce variance requests and “over time will contribute to the sense of enclosure on Gibsons Way, creating an outdoor room rather than a wide corridor with a commercial strip image,” Epp said.
Several points of possible concern were also listed in Epp’s report, including the potential for the added height to overshadow adjacent residences, but the report concluded the benefits would outweigh concerns and recommended first reading.
The amendment would also fix a glitch in the zoning bylaw by formally permitting restaurants to operate — except future drive-through restaurants.
Under the bylaw’s current wording, restaurants are not a permitted use in any commercial area, except the tourist commercial zone. Epp said the omission was likely made because the zoning bylaw’s definition of “restaurant” includes drive-throughs as an accessory use.
A new definition of “restaurant” will be added to the bylaw, specifying that “it may not include a drive-through window.”
Asked by Mayor Wayne Rowe what impact the provision would have on existing businesses, Epp said only A&W would be “an existing non-conforming situation,” but would not be affected unless it closed down for more than six months.
“Other than that, it wouldn’t impact any existing operations,” he said, since other drive-throughs on Gibsons Way fall under Sunshine Coast Regional District zoning.
The bylaw amendment is expected to come back to council within the next month.