A round peg in a square hole, Positively Fit looks for support

A round peg in a square hole, Positively Fit looks for support

It feels a bit surreal to be applying for a Temporary Use Permit (TUP) for Positively Fit, my Bowen Island business of 25 years with 17 years in its present location on Senior Rd.  My TUP application will be introduced to Mayor and Council Monday night, January 9. We are not renovating or expanding or changing the business in any way. It has operated in its present form for decades. Nor has the operation of the business impacted the neighbourhood negatively as confirmed by the dozens of support letters I have received from neighbours, clients and members. In fact the opposite is true in that my business if anything improves the neighbourhood and has contributed to the health and wellbeing of the Bowen Island community as a whole. What has changed however is I no longer live on the property and run it as a home based business.  Here is the back story as to how I find myself here.

I started Positively Fit as a one woman enterprise in 1997 out of the Bowen Island Community Recreation gym and eventually moved my training to the Strang’s Gym – now the Orchard Recovery Gym.  Back in the early 2000’s, the Strang’s Gym was home to several fitness trainers including myself. When the Strang’s decided to build a private recovery centre and close the gym to public use, Lorinda generously gave me one year to find a new home for my thriving business.  My husband and I looked at our options, then looked to our home with its large, flat backyard at 1042 Miller Rd as an excellent location for a small fitness studio – a permanent, stable home to nurture Positively Fit’s growing clientele and an opportunity to expand the business model by offering memberships.  In 2005 we set to work planning the space, working with the municipality to ensure all the necessary  paper work was in place including building permits and requested setbacks.  On March 1, 2006 we opened Positively Fit as a home-based business.  Since then the business has grown and now employs 4 trainers, providing a superb space for personal training and members to lean into their health and wellness.  Positively Fit also provides a foundation from which to launch the community based, fitness event volunteer work I do, the most recent project being SwimBowen raising funds for islanders in cancer treatment.

My husband and I have since moved to the other side of the island and rent out the house next to the Studio as a (much needed) long term rental.  When the business licenses were introduced in January 2020, I immediately filled in the paper work and sent off my completed application to BIM. However, my application was declined as Positively Fit is no longer a home-based business. And because the property is zoned residential and not commercial – Positively Fit is not in compliance.

In order to be in compliance and receive a business license, I have 3 options.

Option #1: apply for commercial re-zoning. However, we understand that the long term vision for the Miller Rd corridor does not include commercial zoning. I would then be applying for expensive re-zoning that I wouldn’t get.

Option #2: lease a space in a commercially zoned area and move the entire business.  But this is not financially feasible.  As well, I would argue that part of the Studio’s success is its precise location: private and tucked away in a lane way neighbourhood just steps away from the Cove.

Option #3: apply for a TUP – giving me 3 years grace with the opportunity to reapply for one more 3 year term.  I am acutely aware of the controversy of using a TUP as a tool for which it is not designed, but this is exactly where I find myself.  I’ve had thorough conversations with BIM Planning Department and this seems to be the only option.  In fact, this is the option that has been recommended to me.

I am hoping the BIM will grant me a TUP.  The irony is that there is nothing temporary about Positively Fit. I am a square peg trying to fit into a round hole: an established, well run home-based business that has evolved into a remotely run business.  I don’t fit any category so the TUP is essentially a band aid approach so I can continue operating.  My hope is that the new iteration of the BIM Official Community Plan will include new bylaws and zoning that better support small businesses, and can embrace examples like PF, where proven businesses in residential neighbourhoods can coexist to the benefit of the community.

If you would like to support Positively Fit continuing operations in its current form and location, and agree that the business does not detract from the Miller Rd neighbourhood, you can email your letter of support before 3pm on Jan 9th 2023 to mayorandcouncil@bimbc.ca.  You can also to show your support by attending the Council meeting Monday Jan 9th 6:15pm.