A proposal to expand and relocate a Pharmaprix pharmacy in Montreal West has some residents worried because they say the size of the new store will conflict with the city's small-town appeal.
The company's plan came before the city's Planning Advisory Committee on Wednesday night. The proposal calls for a 950 square metre store on two floors to be built on Westminster Avenue.
Pharmaprix says it is simply relocating an existing store. But the new pharmacy would be about four times the size of most stores on the commercial strip, and it will be located near Budning pharmacy, a family-run business which has served the neighbourhood for 50 years.
Pharmacist Carole Budning says Pharmaprix has approached her, offering to purchase her business and inviting her to run their new franchise. She says she's not interested.
"This is not something I want to do at this time. I've molded my business, I've been here, I've tweaked it to be exactly where I want to be," said Budning.
Budning says she is not afraid of competition, but she thinks the new Pharmaprix will cause more traffic and doesn't fit the character of the neighbourhood.
"You don't relocate to something ten times the size," said Budning. "This is not a relocation, this is an invasion."
Montreal West Mayor Beny Masella supports the project. He says the new store will bring his city close to $80,000 a year in tax revenue and can easily be integrated into the neighbourhood.
"They keep calling it a big box store. I have a real problem with that," he said. "They're not selling big boxes. It's a pharmacy."
Masella has been criticized by residents for having two possible conflicts of interest in the matter. First, the mayor is a pharmacist himself and owns a store a few blocks away from the intended location. He doesn't see that as a factor.
"I'm not talking to you as pharmacist, I'm talking as the mayor of Montreal West," said Masella. "I have to do what is right for the town."
But it also bothers residents that the head of Montreal West's Planning Advisory Committee, city councillor Dino Mazzone, served as chief legal council for Pharmaprix until 2007.
An official town hall meeting to discuss the new store will take place on Monday, and it's likely to draw many opponents from the community.
Pamela Ungar moved to Montreal West 16 years ago to raise a family. She says people live there for the small neighborhood and small stores.
"If we wanted to go to big box stores we could go to Decarie, I could go to Cavendish Mall," said Ungar. "This is why we live here."