LITTLE CURRENT—The two-year-old project to bring a Tim Hortons franchise to Little Current continues to hold in a stalemate.
The Expositor reached out to prospective owner Denis Lefebvre, owner of three Tim Hortons locations in Espanola and Blind River. Mr. Lefebvre said he has not given up on his plans despite the obstacles that currently stand in the way of the project.
Mindemoya-based developer Rob Sheppard originally purchased a parcel of land from the Northeast Town in January 2016, with the intent of building a fast-food restaurant. The Expositor reached out to the developer who declined to comment on any current updates to the proposal.
Mr. Lefebvre said he has heard from other developers who may be interested in partnering for this project, should the current location remain prohibitive. However, he said he has not abandoned any of his plans with Mr. Sheppard, nor has he moved towards any of the other proposals.
The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) conducted a traffic study at the proposed location on Highway 6 near the swing bridge last summer. It mandated substantial roadway upgrades to handle the increased traffic, which would add nearly half a million dollars to the project’s cost.
However, that study was conducted on Haweater Weekend, Manitoulin’s busiest weekend of the year, which sees traffic levels far above average. Mr. Sheppard called the study unfair, saying it was not representative of normal traffic levels.
The MTO would require the construction of a third traffic lane with a tapered lane, an environmental study and another engineering study for the construction to go ahead.
In the January 2016 article announcing the sale of the land, Mr. Sheppard was quoted saying the business would create jobs for “upwards of 10 employees.” A letter to the editor by Neil Ballantyne, published in January of this year, stated that a similar-sized Hamilton Tim Hortons where he works supports 39 jobs. Fifteen of those jobs are full-time.
Manitoulin residents shared mixed opinions on allowing a fast-food franchise to open on the Island. On Facebook, supporters of the franchise said the business would create jobs, that Manitoulin is “behind the times” or afraid of change, and that having a known business along the main highway could encourage travellers to stop and wander around the town rather than driving through.
Opponents, however, worried that adding a Tim Hortons franchise would call the quality and character of the Island itself into question. They said this would over-commercialize Manitoulin, damage family-run businesses and increase roadside litter.
It would seem that for the time being, grabbing a cup of Tim’s coffee will still require the nearly 100-kilometre round trip between Little Current and Espanola.