By Jennifer Hoegg
A proposal to expand the Tim Hortons’ drive-thru in Kentville has people talking – and it isn’t about the peppermint mocha.
Local storeowner Les Falconer attended the Nov. 13 council advisory committee meeting to elaborate on a letter he wrote to Kentville in October. He would like to buy a piece of town property behind the coffee shop at the corner of Aberdeen Street and Station Lane to expand the drive-thru.
Falconer has good reason to want to expand: the number of sales and number of vehicles visiting the smaller of the two Kentville stores is growing.
“In our business, flat is the new up,” he said. “Everybody is flat across the country, (but) we’re still showing probably seven per cent growth.”
Despite having “the number one window times in western Nova Scotia,” traffic backs up out of the drive-thru lanes and into the street, Falconer pointed out, particularly at 10 minutes before the hour throughout the morning.
“We have what’s going to become a huge traffic issue, I do believe. There’s a bottleneck at the entrance and at the exit of our drive-thru.”
He proposed two scenarios to help ease traffic and grow his business: a double-laned drive-thru or a single lane with two speakers. The first would eliminate approximately 15 town-owned parking spots; the second, 10.
“The first option, in a perfect world, allows us to take 23 vehicles off of the street… the other option is a 21-car stack.
“Idling times could be reduced by funneling more cars off the street and into the drive-thru,” Falconer added.
Coun. Eric Bolland said he supported doing something, but wasn’t sure if it was possible.
“I certainly think anything we could do to reduce idling times and congestion is a good initiative,” Bolland said
Traffic versus parking
Falconer also pointed out he was being proactive on the traffic front.
“There are communities in Canada that have said to our parent company that they’re not going to have another building permit until we solve the traffic issues,” Falconer said. “This was not brought up by the town. This was my own instigation.”
When asked about how the reduction of parking spaces would impact the area, Falconer said, “there are going to be some neighbours that are going to lose some parking… but I also think they’re going to jump for joy that they be able to come to and fro from work without all the challenges of getting there.”
Reaction of neighbouring property owners and the question of balancing parking spaces and traffic flow were discussed at length during the meeting.
“I’m not being a negative in any shape or form,” Mayor Dave Corkum said. “But I can tell you every day of my life I hear parking concerns in this town. Quite frankly, I think there’s lots of parking in this town if you want to walk just a little bit or around the corner where you can’t see it.”
Corkum said all options should be looked at and council should do due diligence before parking spots were eliminated.
An ongoing parking study may play a role in the decision making process, chief administrative officer Mark Phillips pointed out. While Falconer would prefer to have an answer sooner than later, Phillips said council had time to discuss and gather staff input.
Coun. Nola Folker-Hill suggested council look at what promises were made to other businesses in the area about parking when they located or renovated.
Coun. Bill Boyd said he recalled other individuals had offered to buy the town property in question in the past and may still be interested.
According to town policy, in order to sell the land, Kentville would need to declare the property surplus, advertise the sale publicly and send letters to adjacent property owners.
“My suggestion would be we move this forward,” Corkum said, “but we take our time to make sure we know which is going to be the best way to go.”
Deputy Mayor Mark Pearl disagreed, calling it “a step forward” and “safer environment.” He added that he doesn’t need more information from a study and was prepared to move forward immediately and advertise the property for sale.
He made a motion to do so, but it was tabled until the next council advisory committee meeting.
After the vote to delay a decision, Folker-Hill said she believed other property owners would be interested in the land.
“It’s like advertising a job when you have the perfect person for the job, but you are obligated to advertise the job and I personally think that there will be other interest in that land if it is declared surplus,” she said. “In fact, by doing so, it could be quite detrimental to what Mr. Falconer is trying to do. So I do think it’s important that we dot our I’s and cross our T’s.”
At its meeting Nov. 26, three letters were received by council on the topic – reflecting the concerns predicted at the committee meeting.
Dr. Charles Hamm wrote on behalf of the Valley Women and Children’s Health Centre opposing any reduction in parking next to its 60 Aberdeen St. building.
Hamm stated that the town had leased parking spots to the centre for the past six years and their loss would affect patient safety.
“I do not agree with compromising patient care to sell more coffee,” Hamm wrote.
A letter from Patti Woodworth-Norris and Peter Norris, owners of 99 Webster St., presented a similar viewpoint. The pair added that the “appeal of our building as leasable commercial space would be significantly affected, both by the lack of parking, and the environmental impact of increased traffic and idling directly behind the building.”
Woodworth-Norris and Norris wrote they had made two earlier offers to buy the property in question from the town.
A third letter was received from a non-Kentville resident who works in the town expressing concerns about environmental and traffic impacts.
“I am all in favour of businesses bringing business to small towns, improving and building on their business,” Heather King wrote, “but this Tim Horton’s drive thru I busy enough… let them build “bigger and better somewhere else.”
The issue is expected to return to the council advisory agenda Dec. 10 at 1:30 p.m. in council chambers.