Fort Mall Obtains New Zoning Designation
City Council approved a new zoning designation for the Fort Mall property on Tuesday, assigning the mall a C3 designation. The new designation, which differs from the mall’s original C4 designation, will enable the property’s new owners to more efficiently redevelop the property. Prior to last week’s designation change, the mall had been zoned Direct Control — meaning that Council had to approve any development at the site.
City consultations with the Downtown Redevelopment Advisory Committee (DRAC) had initially resulted in the committee suggesting a C4 designation. “At the time that DRAC met on March 14, city staff shared that C4 was the original zoning for the mall, and the discussion of returning to the original zone seemed to make sense,” explains DRAC Chairperson, Don Morgan. “Having the same zone in the mall precinct also made sense hence DRAC’s original recommendation of C4,” he explained.
But upon further discussion, the DRAC decided to support a C3 recommendation: “Upon further analysis by the Planning Department it was then shared with DRAC a few days later that C4 does provide for Apartment Dwellings above the first storey of commercial development,” explained Morgan. “Without an appropriate land use designation being in place, this type of development could occur and it would be difficult for administration to ensure all the provisions in the Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan (DARP) were followed,” he continued.
“The C3 is a Shopping Centre zone of which there are no provisions for residential uses therefore the site can only exist as a retail and service mall until proper zoning can be put in place,” said Morgan. “When the Land Use Bylaw is updated the zone will likely be a hybridization of what makes sense for the Mall Precinct and the vision of the DARP, which is higher density over the long term,” he concluded.
A letter of support for the rezoning was also submitted to Council by Fr. Raphael D. Johnston, Pastor of the Protection of the Holy Theotokos Orthodox Church, who has entered into negotiations with the mall’s owners to move his Church’s location to the mall. Opposition to the change included a letter from an unidentified individual, who expressed concern that the Fort Mall site is “a large tract of land that will affect the entire downtown if care is not taken to ensure viable, agreeable development.” The individual felt that commercial rezoning could lead to “marginal businesses” being set up in the mall.