A video arcade can continue to operate in the Braid industrial area for a couple more years but more work needs to be done before considering it as a permanent use on industrial land.
In an effort to help East Van Amusements survive through pandemic restrictions, city council approved issuance of a temporary use permit (TUP) in June 2020, which allowed the company to operate a an arcade at 30 Capilano Way. The applicants had originally requested a three-year TUP, but council approved a two-year permit.
“We are requesting a one-time extension of the TUP,” wrote applicants Kyle and Amanda Seller in a letter to the city. “It would mean a lot to us, and I believe our business has made a positive impact to the City of New Westminster and has brought many people in to the city from other areas ….”
Industry Arcade is home to dozens of games, including pinball and arcade games, bubble hockey and more. Customers can book 60-minute, 90-minute and two-hour rental sessions.
On May 9, council supported a staff recommendation to extend the temporary use permit for a period of two years to July 13, 2024.
The property is zoned heavy industrial districts, so an arcade is not a permitted use unless the site is rezoned or a temporary use permit is issued.
Coun. Patrick Johnstone said he had no trouble extending the temporary use permit for another two years, but questioned the longer term options for Industry Arcade.
“The operation hasn’t caused concern in any way with the neighbouring properties or with any other operators. I am just wondering what the path is here to a permanent change in the zoning language or what way we can give this operator more certainly than just another two-year TUP,” he said. “I don’t k now whether the owner has an interest right now of opening up the process of getting into a full rezoning or if we can simplify that process for rezoning, recognizing that we have had a successful TUP.”
East Van Amusements, which opened in 2013, had been leasing arcade machines to restaurants, pubs, the film industry, corporate and other events – until COVID. In a recent letter to the city, it notes that it’s yet to do a single pop-up arcade rental since February 2020.
Carolyn Armanini, senior planner in economic development, said the business has a sort of “split use” in that it is operating the arcade and is also doing industrial repairs of arcade games out of the space.
“For necessity during the pandemic, they have had to stop the rental aspect of the arcade, and therefore upped the ante on the commercial aspect. That aspect is where we would traditionally encourage those to be on more of our retail commercial street fronts,” she said. “In this particular instance, moving forward it would require a rezoning and an OCP amendment because it is an industrial use. Currently they haven’t necessarily said that that is something they want to take on. I think they are still in a bit of a transition period, and really understanding where their business operations will go at the end of the pandemic.”
Armanini said an option may be to look at allowing the arcade as an “ancillary use” on the site, if East Van Amusements wanted to retain that use as part of its business.
Industrial land “crisis”
Emilie Adin, the city’s director of climate action, planning and development, said Metro Vancouver’s regional growth strategy has a significant focus on retention of industrial lands. She said there may be some issues to consider in terms of allowing additional commercial uses on industrial lands.
Johnstone said he’d like council to have a conversation about where the “ancillary use” works and how the city can be more flexible in its industrial uses. He noted that craft breweries often include retail and industrial components.
“I’d like us to have a better discussion about that, making sure we are supporting this. That can actually end up supporting our industrial areas better, if we can give them more flexibility to do that industrial work,” he said. “This is clearly not work you want to be doing on a retail strip necessarily if you are doing heavy work on machinery.”
Coun. Chuck Puchmayr said the temporary use permit was a creative way of supporting the business’s needs through the pandemic, and he’d like to see how the city could facilitate this business use on a more permanent basis.
“I strongly support preserving our industrial land. We are in an industrial land crisis right now in the Lower Mainland, most of the Lower Mainland and British Columbia. So we have to be very careful what we do,” he said. “I just can’t see 50 arcade galleries opening up in an industrial area, should we be able to provide some flexibility on a more permanent basis.”
Mayor Jonathan Cote supported the temporary use permit, but urged council to “tread carefully” and carefully consider allowing arcades as a permanent use in industrial areas.
“I think we are all aware of the challenges the region faces with industrial land, and I would definitely encourage, if we do engage in that discussion, to connect to that to the broarder regional strategy on industrial land and really understand the challenges we face,” he said.
Cote pointed out that Metro Vancouver considered a “very controversial application” to expand industrial land into rural and natural areas in the region, with the rationale being there wasn’t enough industrial land.
“As someone who likes craft breweries and arcades, this sounds like a fun opportunity, and maybe it won’t have that larger and bigger impact, but I do think we should be careful because I think our industrial lands have faced a death by 1,000 cuts,” he said. “Each individual application on their own wasn’t what has caused the challenge we have, but they all do add up.”