Traffic concerns may complicate Mount Forest grocery store proposal

MOUNT FOREST – Wellington North councillors are concerned a proposed grocery store could exacerbate existing traffic issues in the north end of Mount Forest.

At a public meeting on April 26, representatives from Sobeys outlined plans for a new Foodland grocery store at the intersection of Main Street North and Mount Forest Drive.

The new store will replace the existing Foodland on Main Street South in downtown Mount Forest.

“The applications will facilitate a more efficient use of the vacant lands owned by Sobeys,” said Eric Saulesleja, a representative of Sobeys, which owns Foodland grocery stores.

“This will facilitate the development of a modern Foodland to meet the needs of Mount Forest and the surrounding community.

“It is hoped that a site plan application will be filed shortly after council approval of the zoning bylaw amendment.”

The proposed zoning bylaw amendment was not voted on during Monday’s meeting, but will be considered at a future meeting.

To allow a Foodland about 2,525 square metres in size, the 2.9 hectare (7.2 acre) property must be rezoned from highway commercial (C2) zone and shopping centre commercial (C4) zone to a site-specific highway commercial (C2) exception zone and shopping centre commercial (C4) exception zone.

A 150-square-metre restaurant with a drive-thru and new horse and 70-square-metre buggy shed (the existing horse and buggy shed will be demolished and reconstructed) are also shown as stand-alone buildings on the north end of the property in the proposal.

Also proposed is an expanded parking lot with 241 parking stalls and a new entrance at the intersection of Main St. North (Highway 6) and Mount Forest Drive.

As part of the proposal, the existing entrance onto Main St. North in the Centre of the property being closed, while the existing entrance to The Beer Store would remain in place.

The proposal also includes a three-metre road widening along Main St. North and reconfiguration of access onto the road.

The Peavey Mart and Beer Store, currently on site, would remain in place.

Sobeys officials say the development will make better use of the land, improve existing parking/access to the site, and create no significant traffic concerns.

Councillor Dan Yake was skeptical of the proposal, saying it would add to existing traffic concerns in the area.

“There are significant traffic concerns in the area right now, and this is just going to add to the issue,” he said.

“Now we’re talking about building a grocery store, where there’s hundreds of cars, and a drive-thru restaurant.”

Yake added, “Until we get the (traffic) situation straightened out to where we’re happy as a municipality, I’m not in favour of the amendment.

“And if that means it takes longer to get done, then so be it.”

Paul Hruska, a local resident who works in the area, also brought up concerns about traffic and the impact the grocery store and restaurant would have at the intersection.

“We have a lot of tractor-trailer traffic in and out of our facility, he said.”

“It is very difficult to get off of Mount Forest Drive onto Main Street at times, and I think this will just make it worse.”

Mayor Andy Lennox also shared concerns about traffic, saying there needs to be further review before any decision is made.

“I think I can speak for council that this looks like a promising development in this location, however, we need to resolve these issues around traffic to be prepared to move forward,” said Lennox.

He added the proposed zoning bylaw amendment will be further discussed and voted on at a future meeting.