(Update: This story was updated to reflect that Coun. Kevin Flynn was not present to vote on the rezoning or development permit applications because he stepped out due to a potential conflict of interest, not because he was simply “absent.”)
The pleas of existing hoteliers did not sway Salmon Arm council’s view of a rezoning application for a new hotel in town.
Hollypark Hotels Corporation wants to build a six-storey, 95-room Fairfield Inn & Suites Marriott International hotel at 790-16th St. NE, across from Salmon Arm Secondary’s Jackson campus.
The application was to rezone the 1.8-acre parcel owned by the Turner family, pioneers in the apple-growing industry, from R1, single family residential, to C6, tourist/recreation commercial zone.
The rezoning was approved unanimously by six of seven council members. Coun. Kevin Flynn stepped out due to a potential conflict of interest. The decision was not made before the opinions of representatives of the Comfort Inn & Suites and the Podollan Inn were expressed during a public hearing, however.
Jill Power, manager of the Comfort Inn, made an impassioned plea to council to protect existing facilities by not allowing the new hotel.
Most of the hotels in town run at 20 to 25 per cent capacity during the shoulder seasons, she said, with good summer occupancy supporting the rest of the year.
“I have discussed with other hoteliers… flooding the market with another 95 hotel rooms. Supply and demand doesn’t mesh.”
She says existing hotels pay taxes, sponsor events and are a part of the community. Another 95 rooms “puts a hardship on everybody. We try so hard to keep our employees employed.”
Gurjit Jhajj, who owns the Subway restaurants in Salmon Arm, said he understands council wanting to welcome new businesses, but he has invested in the hotel industry and understands economics.
He said another hotelier in Salmon Arm told him there were hard times for eight to 10 years and only in the past three has the business in Salmon Arm been more sustainable.
A letter from David Podollan, owner of the Podollan Inn, opposed the development due to reasons similar to those of the Comfort Inn reps, as well as the fact the Podollan was limited by council to three storeys.
Jody Boudreau said she and her spouse Mike own the property directly across the street from the proposed hotel. When they rezoned five years ago, restaurants and hotels were not allowed because of traffic considerations from the Ministry of Transportation regarding the nearby rescue unit, the school, the hospital and complex care homes.
Kevin Pearson, the city’s director of development services, said that decision was the ministry’s, not council’s. But he noted the Boudreau property was designated institutional in the city’s official community plan (OCP), not highway commercial as the one in question is.
For most councillors, OCP designation was key.
Coun. Ken Jamieson pointed out that the properties stretching from the Turner property up past the RCMP detachment, the Dairy Queen, the Comfort Inn and Setter’s Pub have been designated highway commercial in the OCP since 1992.
“It has been on the radar of Salmon Arm for some time. If it’s designated… those property owners have a right to apply for rezoning.”
Although traffic concerns were raised, he noted that when the hotel is in its busiest season – summer – school will be out.
Like other councillors, he said the issue before council was one of land use, not economics.
Coun. Chad Eliason reiterated that council’s job is not to interfere in the market, but to support amenities to support the hotel business such as the arena, soccer fields, the wharf, the arts, festivals, trails.
Regarding traffic, Coun. Alan Harrison said he’d been principal of a school next to the Comfort Inn and the school cooperated closely with the hotel. “It worked very well. I don’t see this will be any different.”
Following the rezoning approval, council considered a development permit application that included a height variance. The variance would see the maximum height as 23.5 metres instead of the 19 metres allowed. Most of the roof line would be 21 metres.
Gray Simms, speaking on behalf of the SAS youth council, expressed concerns about traffic and building height, but added the youth council is not opposed to the hotel.
Harrison said he too was initially worried about the height but realized the trees are higher than the variance and the view is not obscured.
He also said he thinks entering the development on 6th Avenue NE and leaving on 16th Street NE will work, plus the hotel is providing more parking than required.
Once again council approved the development permit unanimously, with Flynn stepping out.