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More cars, fewer gas stations in New Westminster
There certainly are more cars on the road these days than there were two, three, four or more decades ago. The same can’t be said for gas stations. In fact, the trend has gone in the other direction.
Jim Hurst, City of New Westminster planner, points to the big, busy Petro-Can station at the foot of 12th Street where it connects to Stewardson Way.
“It’s one of the largest grossing gas stations in Canada,” says Hurst.
It’s that way for good reason, he continues.
Head west from that station and a driver with the needle on E on that popular commuter route won’t see another place to buy gas until well into Vancouver on Marine Drive. Go east and there’s nothing along Columbia and Brunette almost all the way to the freeway.
“It’s certainly well positioned,” says Hurst.
The introduction of self-serve stations in the 1970s started the decline in numbers.
Cozy little stations that did repairs and filled your tank have gone the way of leisure suits.
So companies have closed their smaller stations, but it’s left many lots in limbo. The environmental remediation required to make the land useful for some other purpose can take years.
But the profit margins for them are so low the oil companies don’t mind sitting on them until they’re safe and can be sold.
That’s why the little lot at the corner of Sixth Street and Belmont—across from Tim Hortons—that used to have a Petro-Can station on it has been sitting vacant for years.
Petro-Can, which is owned by Suncor, said when it closed the station it wouldn’t sell until the remediation was complete. No plans for a development proposal on that site have yet to come across any desks at city hall.
“They have no intention of reopening on that site,” says Hurst.
The property, Hurst says, is zoned for mixed residential and commercial use, so an owner wanting to put up a high rise would only need a development permit to build it.
Hurst says municipalities have had to move away from gas stations being lumped in as commercial zoning.
The new regulations require the lots to be much bigger, which is why few new stations are being proposed.
Hurst worked on the planning of the Chevron station at Eighth Avenue and McBride Boulevard, and that required quite a bit of juggling of the plans to give the big delivery trucks enough of a turning radius.
Despite the disappearance of the little stations—according to one published report, the city of Vancouver has 84 gas stations, 244 fewer than it did 40 years ago—New Westminster has its fair share, says Hurst.
There’s a Shell station across the street from the Chevron, which has another station in Sapperton and on Sixth Street.
“We’re fairly well served for a small municipality,” says Hurst.