Bill MacMunn of GP Vehicle Sales presented plans for a car dealership on the Esplanade to Ladysmith Council

Bill MacMunn of GP Vehicle Sales presented plans for a car dealership on the Esplanade to Ladysmith Council

Esplanade dealership gets council green

Assurances to be sought that car lot will retain electric vehicles in mix

Ladysmith Council gave its approval for a car dealership to be located on the Esplanade, at Warren Street, across from the Cenotaph. Now the proposal will go to the Ministry of Highways for consideration before final adoption.

But after hearing concerns raised during a public hearing Nov. 2, before the beginning of its regular council meeting, the town added measures to ensure the business plan for the high visibility location retains electric vehicles as part of its mix.

The 15-car lot will be located at 934 & 940 Esplanade Avenue, part of four lots and a partial lot that were slated for a mixed use development, which would have included 15 residential units and five commercial spaces on the ground floor.

“The owner of the land no longer wishes to proceed with the mixed used development,” Director of Development Service Felicity Adams said.

Instead, about half the parcel will be used for the car dealership, which will occupy the two northernmost properties of the overall site. When plans are made for development of the remaining parcels, they will have to be presented to council for consideration.

What is considered a heritage building occupies the portion of the overall site being spot zoned for the car lot, and GP Vehicle Sales spokesperson Bill MacMunn said the building would be restored as part of the overall project.

A sight rendering showed the display lot running along Warren Street, then wrapping along the Esplanade face of the site. “It’s not going to be a typical kind of car lot that you would see with balloons, flags and whatnot,” MacMunn explained in his presentation.

He said it won’t cater to a typical auto sales clientele either. One of the main components of the sales will be second hand electric vehicles, he said, and most of the clients will be ‘by appointment,’ so the business will not be using gaudy signs and gimmicky promotions to draw customers.

“We’re not looking for 50 or 60 sales per month,” MacMunn said. “We’re not a volume-based business.”

It was the green aspect of the proposal that appealed most to council. Said Steve Arnett, “Right now I could not afford a brand new electric vehicle, but I certainly would be interested in a used vehicle.”

MacMunn said it’s that kind of buyer dilemma GP Vehicles wants to tap into. “The market place, as we see it with electric vehicles, is more and more people need them, but where do they get them.”

People at the public hearing, though, wanted to know what would happen if the car dealership didn’t succeed in the green market, and ended up exclusively selling conventional vehicles instead.

In response to those concerns Coun. Rob Hutchins suggested staff be mandated to negotiate an agreement or covenant that would ensure electric vehicle sales remain part of GP Vehicle Sales business strategy.

GP Vehicles senior partner Phillip Oldridge, who owns GreenPower Motor Company, a Vancouver based business that specializes in the sale of alternatively powered transit vehicles, said he is only interested in green powered vehicles, but added the Ladysmith car dealership will need time to build a clientele and bring in inventory.

“You can’t just open it tomorrow morning and have it all filled up with electric vehicles,” he said.

Asked directly by Arnett if GP Vehicle Sales would consider a minimum number of vehicles on its lot to be electric, Oldridge replied, “We’re happy to go with 20 per cent right out of the gate; we could even go with 25 per cent.”

Council passed third reading of the bylaw to allow the car dealership, along with an amendment proposed by Hutchins that the Town of Ladysmith staff negotiate terms around the proportion of electric vehicles that will be on the lot before final adoption.