Four Winds proposal far different from craft brewery comparisons


Re: Craft brewery brings a community together, letter to the editor, May 30

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Kevin Klassen’s well-written letter in support of the relocation of Four Winds Brewing to the new proposed Southlands Village illustrates the passion of craft brewery enthusiasts. He paints an idyllic image of young, happy families, seniors and youth all drawn together by their shared love of craft beer, hanging about what he calls their “Third Place,” with only home and work closer to their hearts.

Klassen feels the local, negative response to the Four Winds proposal was “uninformed and ultimately irresponsible.” He tosses in “fear mongering” for good measure.

Klassen describes with obvious, almost religious, zeal the central role of several Lower Mainland and other craft breweries in their local residential communities, which apparently is the theme of his master’s thesis. He references 33 Acres Brewing in Vancouver, Persephone Brewing near Gibsons, Townsite Brewing in Powell River and the breweries, at least four of them, located in Port Moody on “Brewers Row.”

He claims the “size of the proposed [Four Winds] facility is in line with the breweries noted earlier and many others that are compatible with their residential neighbours.” Unfortunately, the facilities cited by Klassen are neither comparable in size with the proposed Four Winds brewery, nor in residential neighbourhoods.

These other facilities are easily located on Google Maps, where you can determine their approximate size, as I have done with over 80 Lower Mainland craft breweries. Klassen’s “comparable” facilities range between about 2,500 and 7,500 square feet, with most on the lower end of that range. The proposed new Four Winds building is about 30,000 square feet, with the variance application including two other industrial buildings comprising together about another 10,000 square feet.

With the brewery building, this comprises 50 per cent of the 80,000 square feet set aside in the original plan, not for commercial use and certainly not for industrial use, but for mixed residential-commercial use. And, of course, none of the other breweries cited by Klassen appear to be anywhere near as high as the proposed Four Winds building, which would be approximately the size of a typical supermarket.

But the differences between the Four Winds proposal for Southlands and Klassen’s comparable sites doesn’t end with building size. 33 Acres is located in the Mt. Pleasant district of Vancouver on 8th Avenue just west of Ontario Street. It is in a large, busy commercial area extending from Broadway north all the way to False Creek. Persephone Brewing is north of Gibsons off the Sunshine Highway, in a mostly forested area, with only four detached homes on large lots in sight of the brewery. Townsite Brewing is in Power River, just a half block from the Catalyst Paper Mill. And “Brewers Row” is on Murray Street in Port Moody, with a large mill and terminal facilities immediately to the northwest and a multi-line rail transportation corridor immediately to the south.

Neither the size, nor the location, of Klassen’s referenced breweries bear any resemblance at all to the Four Winds facility and the Southlands and Boundary Bay neighbourhood. The same can be said of the great majority of other craft breweries in the Lower Mainland.

Four Winds is a significantly larger facility. It intends to expand production at Southlands. Boundary Bay is a small, quiet residential neighbourhood of mostly detached homes. To this, Southlands, as originally proposed, will add additional housing options, including detached homes and townhomes.

The village is planned to consist of street level retail, with two-storey townhomes above. The Four Winds proposal would consume half of that space, not just the commercial space, but the more affordable housing as well.

If Klassen would like to promote a very small craft operation in the shadow of a large paper mill, marine terminal or other heavy industrial facility, or in very lightly populated and forested areas on the Sunshine Coast, he has made the case for that, but not for siting Four Winds in Southlands/Boundary Bay. Not by a long shot.

Klassen objects to the words “manufacturing” and “industrial” in describing Four Winds’ brewing operations. He likens brewing odours to that of baked good and fruit, although to be fair, odour really exists only in the “nose of the inhaler” where opinions honestly differ.

I understand and respect Klassen’s reverence for craft brewing and his belief that brewing is art, not industry. Many share his passion. But for those for whom beer, craft or otherwise, is just a welcome and convivial relief on a hot day, brewing on the Four Winds scale is an industrial activity, which is why it is so zoned in Delta.

I also do not share Klassen’s apparent belief that breweries, craft or otherwise, are necessarily the best choice as the focal point and ideal meeting venue – a kind of spiritual centre - for small, family-oriented communities, although brew pubs would likely be very welcome in Southlands. Four Winds is not a brew pub. Far from it.

Contrary to Klassen’s claims, I think most young families with small children will be very happy to locate in the new Southlands. The first question young parents hunting for a home in Southlands ask the real estate agent is unlikely to be: “Is there a large craft brewery nearby where I can take the children to meet friends?” They won’t feel disadvantaged to find there is no commercial brewery dominating the village, and many may well be understandably relieved.

The problem with the Four Winds proposal isn’t difficult to understand. After over 40 years of controversy, the developer promised a pleasant housing development, complemented by a village venue comprising 80,000 square feet of mixed residential – commercial space – street level small retail and two-storey residences above. No industrial use, no large buildings, maximum three storeys.

Southlands Village was never promoted as a tourist destination in its original form. It is not Granville Island or Lonsdale Quay. That was the promise. Many local residents simply want it honoured. Is that really so outrageous?

I hope Klassen reconsiders his claim that folks like me and my neighbours, who live in Boundary Bay, and are most affected by the Four Winds proposal, are uninformed, irresponsible fear-mongers to use his terms. I also regret he found it necessary to suggest, in reference to people of my age, that the defeat of the Four Winds proposal sacrificed “the future appeal of Southlands to meet the desires of a demographic that likely won’t be able to live in [Southlands] once it is built out.”

Sorry I seem to be in your way, Kevin. But then, if your best arguments are insults, I suppose a little ageism is not unexpected. Klassen might be more persuasive if he toned down the passion and the ad hominem attacks and took greater care with the facts. Facts are important, even on an op-ed page.

Paul Lowry



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