Zoning and a south end gas station

You’ve been there. You’re running late. You jump into the car. You turn on the ignition and you realize the gas tank is practically empty. If you live in any other part of town, this may not strike fear in your heart but if you live south of Kortright and didn’t plan on detouring through Aberfoyle, you may be in trouble.

The need for a South end gas station is one of the most common issues I’m hearing while canvassing.

Despite the fact the population south of Stone Road increased by 55% since 2001 - and continues to grow by leaps and bounds - we haven’t seen a new gas station. And soon, won’t the 17,000-20,000 new residents of Clair-Maltby need gas too? The need will only grow.

In the future, we may all drive electric cars or live in a utopian city where everyone walks or takes the bus, but the fact is 51,000 Guelphites commute to work by car every day. And after work, we drive our kids to their activities. We drive to doctors’ appointments, to run errands, or to visit friends and relatives in other cities - and most of those vehicles need gas.

City staffers say they can’t force a private company to open a gas station. That may be, but what is the city doing to ensure we meet this basic transportation need?

At a minimum, we need to protect land that is currently zoned for a gas station or gas bar, because once another housing development, restaurant, coffee shop or strip mall is built there, the land will be gone for good. As Mark Twain wrote “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.”

With this adage in mind, I asked the city to provide the list of zones that permit a “Vehicle Gas Bar” in the zoning by-law. These are:

  • Neighbourhood Commercial (NC)

  • Community Shopping Centre (CC)

  • Regional Shopping Centre (RC)

  • Service Commercial (SC.1)

  • Highway Service Commercial (SC.2)

To identify where those zones are, the city also provided a zoning map which was last updated in 2006… yes, you read that right. The PDF map divides the city into 76 zones. Once you find your zone, you click onto another PDF to see what is zoned there. Zones 30, 42 and 73 (Gordon and Clair) all have CC zoning but that land is already built-up. Zone 72 and 76 (Clair-Maltby) still say “Refer to the Town of Puslinch zoning by-law.” Not terribly helpful.

The fact is, if a south end gas station is not built soon, we may run out of places to build one. There are a number of constraints. We absolutely cannot - nor would we want to - build a gas station on environmentally sensitive land AND, the city’s commercial policy review (June 2018) found that, given our projected growth, we will have a shortage of commercial land by 2041:

“… there will be a sufficient supply of commercial land available within the City to accommodate projected demand for new commercial space up until 2031; however, after that, it is forecast that there will be unmet demand of approximately 36,032 sq m (387,850 sq. ft.) or 9.27 ha (22.9 acres) by 2041. As noted in the Stage 1 report, the projected future land supply was made taking into consideration market trends including an increase in e-commerce, changing demographics and trends towards intensification. The projected supply assumes that the lands that are currently designated to permit commercial uses will be developed for commercial purposes.” (Commercial policy review, p.v)

We need councillors who are aware of the daily needs of residents, of gaps in service in the commercial mix and of current and future constraints for commercial land. We also need city staff to work with private industry to help us meet those needs.

Dominique O'Rourke