City council voted in support of allowing Volaré Medical Aesthetics to stay permanently in its location at 1677 Seventh Ave., despite concerns raised by area residents during a public hearing on Monday night.
The clinic, which offers a range of cosmetic treatments, has operated in a converted heritage house on the site since December, after city council approved a temporary use permit for the business last July. Following the public hearing on Monday, city council voted in favour of the first three readings of an amendment to the official community plan (OCP) and rezoning for the site. Final approval of the changes will be withheld until the owners submit a landscaping plan, a paving and parking plan and a servicing brief for approval by city staff, city director of planning and development Deanna Wasnik said.
Wasnik said city staff opposed both the temporary user permit, OCP amendment and rezoning, because they weren’t consistent with the neighbourhood plan for the Crescents. There are other commercial properties in the area, but they are primarily along Vancouver and Winnipeg streets, not in the middle of residential blocks, she added.
Area residents raised similar concerns, saying they don’t have an issue with Volaré, but are concerned about what the building could be used for if the clinic moves or closes.
“As a neighbourhood resident, I think this business is a very good neighbour. The issue is changing the OCP,” Andrea Palmer said. “We are definitely a downtown-adjacent neighbourhood. I know why our neighbourhood is attractive to businesses.”
There are plenty of commercial vacancies downtown where a business like Volaré could move without needing to change the OCP, she said.
The Crescents area has been improving over the years she’s lived there, Palmer said, and is attracting new families.
“Changing the OCP can alter a neighbourhood forever,” Palmer said. “It concerns me to open up the C8 (zoning) into our older, beautiful… neighbourhood.”
Area resident Bryce Lamont said his concern is what the building could be used for, not what it’s being used for now.
“The owner, the business, has been great,” Lamont said. “(But) if the business were to close, what could go there?”
The building is currently zoned RS4: Urban Residential, the proposed C8: Commercial Conversation zoning would allow businesses like restaurants, offices, daycares, pet grooming, educational services, personal and health services to move in.
Some of those businesses could result in “a significant change to the neighbourhood,” he said.
‘A LOT OF GREAT SERVICES’
Volaré owner Mike Davis gave a presentation to city council on behalf of his wife, Dr. Amy Johnson, who operates the clinic.
Davis said they opened the clinic on Seventh Avenue because the area and building seemed a good fit for the clinic. The location was previously used for a wedding boutique shop before they purchased it, he added.
“We really saw the area of Seventh Avenue changing for the better,” Davis said.
In the eight months the clinic has been operating, there haven’t been any complaints from neighbours about parking or other issues, Davis said.
The clinic offers “a lot great services” that have boosted people’s confidence and self worth, Davis said.
In addition to client testimonials provided by Davis, city council received a total of seven letters and emails in support of the rezoning and OCP amendment, and five in opposition.
“The applicants have been a welcomed addition to the business community and were most recently nominated for the Prince George Chamber of Commerce 2022 Micro Business of the Year,” Prince George Chamber of Commerce president Ray Noonan wrote. “With the Chamber’s new office location on 7th Avenue, we are happy to welcome engaged and respectful neighbours to the street.”
Dr. Gilbert Wankling, a shareholder of the nearby Heritage Medical Building, and several area residents also wrote letters of support.
Two other speakers also spoke on behalf of the application.
‘THEY’VE BEEN A GOOD NEIGHBOUR’
Coun. Teri McConnachie said she was in support of the rezoning and OCP amendment, in part because the site had already been a business for years and other commercial lots are located six lots away.
“This has been a years-long process for the applicant,” McConnachie said. “I am not willing to squash the applicant’s dreams when it is six lots away.”
Mayor Lyn Hall said while there are vacancies in the downtown, it is not city council’s job to tell business owners where they should set up, only to determine if it is a valid land use. The business has also operated for eight months under the temporary use permit with no issues, he added.
Coun. Kyle Sampson said he expects the business will be in that location for some time, given the amount of investment they’ve put into the location.
“I see this as a positive, and minimum impact to the neighbourhood,” he said.
The neighbour’s concerns have been heard and were taken seriously, Coun. Cori Ramsay said.
“It’s a good move,” Coun. Brian Skakun said. “They’ve been a good neighbour.”