City council voiced some concerns about the impact of traffic on proposed new Costco location

Traffic an issue for Costco

Traffic concerns around a proposed new Costco location at Baron and Leckie roads will likely be on the mind of councillors when a rezoning application makes it to a public hearing next month.

Council gave initial approval Monday afternoon, but several around the table brought up concerns around traffic.

"I have significant concerns for the potential for traffic," said Coun. Charlie Hodge.  "I am looking forward to hearing what will take place in the public process."

Coun. Loyal Wooldridge shared those same concerns, wondering if the large retailer was the right land use to tie up for 30 to 40 years, acknowledging it may only be temporary depending how the retail climate changes.

Planning manager Ryan Smith indicated a large, mainly residential development on the property may not be much better in terms of traffic conditions, especially during peak morning, and afternoon times.

"When you start talking residential on this site, it has its own challenges with traffic because people leave for work between 7:30 and 9, and they come back between 3:30 and 5:30.," said Smith.

"So you end up with those very high peaks that coincide with peaks in this area."

Smith did indicate intersections around the proposed site which is near both the Superstore and Dilworth Shopping Centre, are reaching capacity.

But, if approved, he said Costco has committed $2.5 million for intersection improvement in the area.

Even with those improvements, Coun. Brad Sieben wondered if the intersections would be able to function.

The large, undeveloped parcel is presently zoned A1 agricultural, however, Smith stressed it is not within the Agricultural Land Reserve as has been rumoured.

"The property does lie within our midtown urban centre and had been designated for medium and high density residential development," he said.

Smith says when the application first came to the planning department, staff did study whether it would compromise residential objectives within the urban centre.

"Staff would suggest no for two reasons. First, staff are fielding many inquiries now for other properties in this area for mixed-use development on a larger scale.

"We believe we'll be achieving those objectives either way."

He says while the OCP projects about 1,100 new units in the midtown urban area, it could be closer to 2,000.

It's just not clear. he says, what the timing of those will be.

"In terms of our urban centre hierarchy, it is probably the furthest behind becoming a true urban centre, which is another reason we considered this site," said Smith.

If council does ultimately give Costco the go ahead, there is no clear indication what would happen with the current location, which Costco owns.

Smith says in the traffic study, the current store at highways 97 and 33 was designated as big box retail with less traffic generation.

Something like a Home Depot, he indicated.

The public will get a chance to provide their feedback at the public hearing on the rezoning, scheduled for Dec. 8, at 4 p.m.

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