Comox Valley Food Bank has to move — where zoning is right

The Comox Valley Food Bank needs a new home because landlord Habitat for Humanity needs the space at 1755B 13th St. in Courtenay.

The Comox Valley Food Bank needs a new home because landlord Habitat for Humanity needs the space at 1755B 13th St. in Courtenay.

The food bank thought it had found an alternate site at Cousins Avenue in the Tin Town light industrial area, but the city won’t allow it because of zoning.

“We’re kind of sitting in limbo right now. We’re actively looking and we’re trying to find something,” Comox Valley Food Bank president Jeff Hampton said this week, noting the issue of off-street parking for clients.

He said the 13th Street locale contains room for nine volunteer vehicles and a food bank van.

“All our clients park on the street, but in the place we were looking at we figure we could park about the same amount of vehicles down there,” Hampton said. “I think it’s just part of this NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) thing … Everybody thinks we need the food bank but nobody wants it in their backyard.”

No so, according to City of Courtenay senior planner Gina MacKay, who said the food bank is in a commercial zone but the area at Cousins Avenue is industrial.

“They can’t be accommodated on that site with parking. They don’t have enough off-street parking for the proposed use,” said MacKay, who is trying to help Hampton find a suitable location. “We’re keen on finding a spot for them to be.

“We recognize the contribution to the community … More people will be leaning on their services in years to come, I think. We respect that and acknowledge that.”

Besides off-street parking, the Cousins Avenue site is also inadequate for loading and unloading vehicles such as bread trucks. The issue is not about complaints from businesses, MacKay said.

Hampton does not consider parking to be a major issue, noting a greater number of food bank clients walk or ride a bicycle than drive a vehicle. He counted 17 cars in the vicinity while a big lineup formed last Thursday morning during hamper distribution.

“A lot of people are not driving,” he said, adding a new site would ideally be located near a bus line.

At this point, the food bank does not need to vacate the premises by a certain date. The owners need to give 60 days notice when the time comes to vacate.

“But they know if they give us a notice to vacate, then public opinion could be very nasty,” Hampton said, noting the food bank and Habitat for Humanity both rely on donations to survive.

December will mark the Comox Valley Food Bank’s 28th year of existence. Statistics indicate its clientele represents about 18 per cent of the local population.

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