After a four hour public hearing, Red Deer City council granted permission to Jackpot Casino to turn the vacant land to the east of the establishment into a temporary parking lot for its patrons.
Council Chambers was overflowing with supporters as well as those concerned with the idea that the land would be turned into a temporary parking lot. Nearly 40 people spoke for or against the proposal.
The application was to permit a temporary parking lot for 10 years at 4643 and 4637 50th St., east of the Jackpot Casino. The parking lot would allow for 41 regular stalls and two accessible stalls and include landscaping for screening purposes, benches and a fence as well.
Bruce Buruma, a resident of the area, had concerns.
“There is no question of the importance of Jackpot Casino in our community. A parking lot is the least desirable alternative for any location. It’s a prominent street and a gateway to our downtown core,” he said. “Parking has been an issue in our City for the last 50 years – particularly downtown – 10 years does not sound temporary to me. I see far more potential for this.”
Brandon Bouchard, president of the Parkvale Community Association, said constructing a parking lot in that location could increase traffic in the Parkvale neighbourhood.
“There is no need for another parking lot. It will add more traffic to the area – 46th Avenue is already a shortcut,” he said.
Matt Dial, a resident of the area, said he is in favour of the parking lot being approved.
“I do support it because I think it’s an improvement from what is there now. I don’t think it’s a place for a home or family.”
Scott Mather, a shareholder of Jackpot Casino, said the business has explored all other parking options.
“We would like to stay in the downtown but we have an obligation. Part of our model is to provide parking and we could likely be forced to relocate (without it),” he said. “We want the Jackpot Casino to stay in the downtown. We have whole-heartedly explored all other options.”
Councillor Buck Buchanan made an amendment to the proposal to approve the application for nine years instead of 10 – so that the debate would not become an election item as a municipal election will be held in 2025.
Council passed a motion to grant temporary status to the parking lot for nine years. Councillors Ken Johnston and Tanya Handley were opposed. Councillor Paul Harris was absent.
“This is the entrance to our downtown and potential revenue to our tax base and a parking lot is not the vision that I see here,” said Handley.
Councillor Dianne Wyntjes said the temporary parking lot provides a good alternative to what is there now – two vacant lots.
“I often drive that road and every time I look at the lot, I ask how’s that working for us? And for me, it’s not. I see two vacant lots empty and with no usage,” she said. “As difficult as it is, I support the temporary value. The application was made and we see a parking lot, but it is a parking lot that we normally don’t see. Here’s one with furniture, with fencing, we see preservation of the trees. It’s not your average parking lot.”
Mayor Tara Veer said she struggled with the issue.
“I’ve been back and forth on this. What we have in front of us is an application on temporary use. When Mr. Buruma stood up and said 10 years does not like feel temporary use – I agreed. Councillor (Lawrence) Lee had an amendment to approve it for seven years and I wish that would have gotten on the floor. To me, that recognizes that is an area in transition. In my view seven years – there is investment on the part of the business owner, but in seven years it holds some members of this council accountable to their decision,” she said. “I think in keeping to my integrity about planning significance and the broader community interest what I heard was that Parkvale was divided over the issue. The tipping point for me on a temporary use is the fact that the two directly adjacent properties who arguably will be most directly impacted, spoke in favour of the application.”