Invermere mayor Gerry Taft said the issue of industrial park zoning was on councils radar.

Industrial park zoning pondered

Park could provide competitive advantage with lower rent.

Invermere council have granted a temporary business license for a hair salon in the industrial park of Invermere despite concerns over the potential competitive advantage  and issues over industrial park zoning.

“That’s one of those things we have; a sort of philosophical issue to try and sort out, is does [the industrial park] remain more of a light industrial park, more focused on manufacturing and services, or does it start to become a secondary downtown where any kind of retailer or business is permitted,” District of Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft said. “That’s what we need to wrestle with.”

While the hair salon in question has been in the industrial park for a number of years, a recent application by the building owner for a business license brought to light the fact that the area was not zoned for such a purpose. As such, the owner then applied for a zoning change. Rather than immediately jump into the debate over what’s appropriate for the industrial park, Invermere’s council has instead issued a temporary permit that will allow the business to continue to operate.

The reasoning behind the decision to allow the hair salon to stay was mostly based on both the type of business and the way they conduct their operation, agreed both Taft and councillor Justin Atterbury. As this particular salon operates on mostly an appointment-only basis as opposed to depending on walk-in traffic, both Taft and Atterbury felt that it was an acceptable use for the industrial park.

“Most of the businesses downtown, they’re downtown for a reason, they want lots of walk-by traffic,” Atterbury said. “The downtown core is very expensive for a lot of small businesses in town and if the business doesn’t need to rely on foot traffic to make it work, that business has to survive somehow.”

The Official Community Plan (OCP) directs that the area leading into Invermere and Athalmer is the desired location for commercial interests and the downtown core as suitable for retailers, but Taft said this may need to be examined in light of this recent development.

Taft said the issue of businesses seeking lower rent in the industrial park was something that was definitely on council’s radar at this point, and that council was planning on consulting with other industrial park business owners and operators to find out what their preference is.

“I think its important that we keep an open mind and look at the possibilities, but on the same hand,  I think we need to be careful,” Taft said.

While Taft doesn’t see any kind of trend occurring with businesses choosing the industrial park as their primary destination because of lower rental costs, Atterbury sees the benefits of that sort of movement, saying that it could benefit the entire business community over time.

“If anything, if there is a bit more competition for the downtown hopefully the landlords will get a little more aggressive with their pricing for some of their tenants,” he said. “You definitely don’t want to see empty storefronts downtown… but there has to be that balance there.”