Duane Post speaks at an all candidates debate last Thursday

Council candidates not Timmy’s fans

Growth in Popkum discussed at District of Kent all candidates debate

Having a Tim Hortons would be a major coup for Agassiz, potentially drawing in highway traffic and offering job opportunities. But past negotiations to put the coffee shop chain in town have never been successful, said a number of incumbent councillors the District of Kent all candidates meeting last Thursday. Instead, a $3.5 million project to build a franchise is about to begin in Popkum, just across the Agassiz-Rosedale bridge.

The topic of growth in the Popkum area was tossed around by the six council candidates at the meeting, after being asked by a member of the audience when the “just say no to business” attitude would stop. And their opinions on the neighbouring development varied from those who didn’t think it would draw away from business in Agassiz at all, to those who wondered how the District missed out on the opportunity.

“We don’t suffer from a lack of sources of coffee in town,” said current Mayor Lorne Fisher, who is running for a seat on council in Saturday’s election. Tim Horton’s would be a good business to bring to town, he said, but the chain hasn’t been able to find land in Agassiz that would work with their business model.

There have been problems with every piece of land that could interest Tim Horton’s. One piece of property in question, at the entrance to town coming off the bridge, is agricultural land. Other areas are too far off a main road.

“They want to be on a main drag,” incumbent councillor and council candidate Darcy Striker said.

Ken Schwaerzle, also a current councillor running for re-election, said that Agassiz has a “very strong business community” that wouldn’t be affected by the coffee chain operating so closely.

“I’m not at all worried about what happens in Popkum,” he said.

Many of the candidates also admitted they aren’t regulars at Tim Horton’s, even though family members are.

“My wife will drive to Chilliwack just for a coffee,” Schwaerzle said.

Duane Post, a newcomer to the election scene, said “most people would be for a place like Tim Horton’s coming in.”

The Observer contacted the owner of Oasis Coffee, one of the coffee shops Mayor Fisher said are already serving the community well.

Reese Ollmann, owner, said she doesn’t foresee losing business when the coffee shop opens next year, upon completion of a redesign of the Popkum Market.

“Our business is primarily made up of local business and local people who stay in and around the agassiz area,” she said. “We think the Popkum location is a bit too far out to affect us in any way.”

Candidates were grilled by the Harrison-Agassiz Chamber of Commerce during the debate, as well.

The Chamber organized the event, and sent the following question to the candidates beforehand:

“Should Council actively support the Business Community? Yes or No? If no, please explain your rational. If yes, what measures would you take, for example tax holiday, lower DCC’s for target developments, etc. to help the business community and stimulate new and existing development during Council’s next three-year-term and beyond?”

Bill Crouch and Post both said they would be open to looking at ways to entice businesses to Agassiz. Crouch said tax breaks to help new businesses could be looked at, while Post suggested using other successful cities’ experiences to find ways to grow commerce.

“I would like us to research other communities, to see what they’re doing and to learn from their research,” Post said. “I would also like to talk to businesses and see what hinders them.”

Fisher said council’s have to be “careful in terms of those types of promises being made to businesses,” and current councillor Holger Schwichtenberg said that the Community Charter prevents direct aid to any new businesses.

Voters will go to the polls tomorrow for the 2011 civic election. For full election coverage, visit us online at www.ahobserver.com.

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