NOV 2010
Barbara Simpson

Norfolk council unanimously approved Bulk Barn to set up shop on the Queensway, going against county staff's advice.

Norfolk's planning staff suggestion is that the 5,150- square foot store be situated downtown instead. In a report to council, staff pointed out that certain commercial uses -- including food stores -- can only be located on the Queensway East or Norfolk Street South if downtown options have been exhausted, according to the county's official plan.

Lee Greenwood, of developer Canadian Commercial, argued that Bulk Barn is a specialty store rather than a supermarket. The county's definition of a supermarket includes a variety of items, such as frozen foods, fresh produce, dairy products, baking and candy.

"In my mind, Bulk Barn only fits three of those uses," he said.

He also noted that the nearby Shoppers Drug Mart -- which his firm also developed -- already dedicates between a quarter to a third of its floor space to grocery items.

"We're not challenging the commercial hierarchy in your community," he said.

While there are currently no bulk food stores downtown, planning staff still believe that a Queensway location is inappropriate.

"What I'm really concerned about is the effect on the downtown," said Mary Elder, county senior planner.

"Let's make something clear here," added Jim McIntosh, manager of community planning. "Staff is not in opposition to a Bulk Barn."

Simcoe Coun. Heidy Van Dyk, however, was confused about the caveat on food stores having to first attempt to locate downtown. She cited numerous grocery stores that have either located in malls or built stand-alone stores along the Queensway.

"Clearly, we have stores on the Queensway that sell food and are not restaurants," she said.

Building to suit is a growing trend, Greenwood added. Businesses want to set their "own individual footprints" in a community.

In a letter of support, Sarah Stone, Bulk Barn's director of real estate, states that the cotenants of the shopping centre are "synergistic" with their business.

"We have a number of stores in our chain alongside Shoppers Drug Mart," she wrote. "Furthermore...this location ensures that the new building is constructed to our standards, including delivery truck access."

The placement of the store has also been tweaked to the support of planning staff, Greenwood added. Instead of the store backing onto the Queensway, it will be placed at an angle to allow for the doors to face towards Highway 24.

There will also be space for an additional, albeit smaller, building. It will be built to suit once a client has been secured.

"Our intention has always been to build it up (corner of Highways 3 and 24) as a commercial centre," Greenwood added.

A Bulk Barn store certainly fits the vibe of the shopping centre, Van Dyk said in support of the developer's proposal.

"For me, it feels very clear in character for what's already in place there," she said. "I read the market impact study because certainly, I would not support anything that would deter from downtown businesses."

Simcoe Coun. Charlie Luke also agreed that downtown cannot be ignored. It may, however, be too late. In Hamilton, shoppers are more interested in visiting the city's Lime Ridge Mall than downtown King Street, he pointed out.

"That's the way the world is going," he said. "It's just the way it is."

The Bulk Barn store to be located beside Active Green & Ross is expected to open in 2011.

484 Waterloo Street
London, Ontario