New tattoo shops, cheque cashing companies and tobacconists may not be welcome in Mission’s downtown core.
Following an announcement two weeks ago that the District of Mission will be spending $3.5 million to enhance the downtown area, Mayor Randy Hawes has now asked for zoning changes that will forbid several types of businesses from being allowed to set up shop in the area.
During Monday’s council meeting, Hawes suggested excluding tobacconists, vape shops, cheque cashing companies, the sale of marijuana paraphernalia (bongs, pipes, rolling papers and other smoking needs) and tattoo shops. It was also suggested that massage parlours and flea markets be excluded as well.
The current zoning already forbids new pawn shops or warehousing in the downtown core.
Staff has been tasked with preparing a report for the Oct. 3 council meeting in order to properly word the proposed zoning changes.
If council decides to move forward with the changes, a public hearing would have to take place.
Hawes said any of these types of businesses already located downtown would become legally non-conforming and would not be forced to leave. The zoning would only stop new businesses from opening in the area.
“We have, right now, a number of pawn shops, a number of cheque cashing places, a number of tattoo parlours and – whether the owners of those like to hear it or not – generally speaking when a downtown area is in decline, that’s what comes,” said Hawes, adding the district is investing a lot of money in the downtown area and wants to attract new types of businesses.
“Pawn shops are not attracting the people that should be attracted to downtown. They aren’t going downtown to pawn their articles of to borrow money from a cheque cashing place,” added Hawes.
This new downtown initiative is another in what Hawes said would likely be a series of steps to improve Mission’s main street.
The district is currently working with the owners of the old Bellevue Hotel to see if a complete refit and rebuild of the building can be accomplished. Hawes said council is also exploring options that will allow then to deal with some landlords who are “more interested in making sure they collect the rent than beautifying or doing anything with the building.”
It is still unclear how the district can convince landlords to prevent their building from falling into disrepair.
“The public can expect much more for downtown,” said Hawes.
Carlo Billinger, vice-president and past-president of the Mission Downtown Business Association, said while the association has not met to discuss council’s idea, he thinks the concept is right.
“Many other communities have done it. We’ve tried to do this in the past. We have enough of those businesses in the area now and they will be grandfathered,” said Billinger.
He doesn’t think excluding some types of businesses will be problematic noting that cheque cashing on the whole is on the downslope because on government regulations. He also said vape stores are already in decline.
“Tattoos, in this day and age, aren’t a bad word. Lots of people have them. Fortunately the ones that we have are quality tattoo places,” he said.
The downtown has had some issues in the past with massage places, but the association worked with the Mission RCMP and the district to clean up problem sites.
“Anything we have down here is 100 per cent legitimate now, but we have enough,” said Billinger.
However, if the new changes are approved, then a building may have to remain vacant until an acceptable tenant can be fund. A potential renters could be turned away.
“Overall, it would be better to have more empty stores than have too many of one kind of business,” said Billinger adding that they are already turning people away because some landlords don’t want to rent out the property.
“They are just hanging on to the real estate.”