June 14th, 2024

City rejects rezoning for new drive-in theatre

By Tim Kalinowski on September 9, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDtkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

City council unanimously rejected an application to rezone a property on the city’s east side from Future Urban Development to Direct Control in order to enable the opening of a new drive-in theatre and outdoor event centre off of 43 Street South at 4303 and 4305 24 Avenue South.
The applicants, Jamie Vandenberg and her father Brian Vandenberg, had asked for the rezoning in order to set up and operate the theatre and event centre during the summer months at their property which currently holds other businesses they own, including Skyline Travel Centre, which sells RVs and offers RV storage, and a retail cannabis store nearby.
A public hearing on the application was held during Tuesday’s final city council meeting. Over 30 letters, mainly expressing opposition to the proposal from nearby residents due to noise, light and traffic concerns, were submitted to council, and a few neighbours of the proposed project also aired their concerns in person on Tuesday. The drive-in movie theatre and outdoor event centre did have support from some individuals mainly involved in the local entertainment industry who spoke in favour on Tuesday.
Coun. Blaine Hyggen asked if any extensive communication has been done with the neighbours prior to bringing the proposal to city council for a public hearing?
Jamie Vandenberg admitted opportunities for public engagement had been limited due to public health concerns over COVID-19 and the fact she had been travelling in Mexico for two months this summer. Coun. Joe Mauro then asked her father why he hadn’t undertaken any extensive public engagement efforts prior to his daughter’s return given his past familiarity with the rezoning process?
Vandenberg said he had spoken to many in the community who were overwhelmingly in favour of his family’s proposal, and said those opposed, in his view, were nearby neighbours who would be opposed in any event even though he and his daughter had planned to point the screen northeast facing away from nearby residential areas to mitigate the effects of potential light pollution. They would also be operating the theatre on an FM radio system which would only broadcast inside cars to address any potential noise pollution complaints, he added.
Vandenberg also stated many of those opposed spoke about the existing noise from 43rd Street South, which turns into Highway 4, as a problem for them with his application because it would make more noise in an already noisy area when he held events or movies. Vandenberg told council he had no control over highway noise, and suggested those opposed on this basis probably should not have bought properties next to a highway if that was their concern.
City planning staff earlier in the hearing told city council the application met all requirements under the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan and Municipal Development Plan which could lead council to consider and approve the rezoning application.
After lengthy deliberations and questions from councillors, the public hearing was officially closed. When council returned to its regular meeting agenda after a supper break, Hyggen and Mauro repeated their concerns about a lack of public engagement and the fact that proposed multiple uses of the site were not clearly defined in a comprehensive plan from the Vandenbergs.
Coun. Belinda Crowson agreed, and said she felt a drive-in movie theatre was a great idea in concept, but was less sure about the outdoor event centre component of the application. She said she would like to see more details on what kinds of events would be held at the site and how those would be managed by the Vandenbergs to address neighbours’ concerns about noise and traffic.
“I think with some tweaks and using this as a learning,” she said; “that with conversations with the community; with a little bit better understanding of what exactly is going to happen there; a bit more of a business plan; that I think the applicant will get what they are looking for. Because there are ways of mitigating some of the concerns the public brought forward.”
Given this was the last council meeting of term, the applicants would have to restart the entire application process again in the next council term if they wished for reconsideration.

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