Sackville Town Councillors voted Tuesday to delay decisions on a controversial coffee drive-thru at TransCanada highway exit 506 while they consider studying overall business development in the area.
The vote means that Wendy and Kelly Alder will have to wait at least another month to find out if council might eventually allow them to open a Robin’s Donuts drive-thru at their Tantramar Gas Bar near exit 506.
“It’s very frustrating,” an emotional Wendy Alder told council during the question period after Tuesday’s meeting. She added that the town had stopped buying fuel from her Ultramar switching to the Esso station instead.
“I just feel like everywhere we go in this town, you don’t want us to succeed,” she said.
“You don’t want to help us by buying fuel from us and now you won’t give us a drive-thru. It’s just one more thing. And you know what? Normally, I’m pretty level-headed, but I’m pissed off.”
Although a majority of councillors appear to favour allowing a Robin’s drive-thru at exit 506, it became clear during Tuesday’s meeting that they feel caught in a maze of legal and zoning restrictions.
In July, when the Alders’ application first came before council, a majority voted against amending the town’s 15-year-old bylaw banning new drive-thrus.
Councillors said then they feared that changing the bylaw could open the way for more drive-thrus at exit 504 where the ones at McDonald’s and Tim Hortons already generate considerable traffic.
Now, under provincial law, council is unable to re-open the issue for a full year unless a proposed bylaw change is substantially different from the one in July.
“It’s the law,” Mayor John Higham said. “You cannot have the same question for another year, that’s the law. There’s not much more we can do about that, we can’t break the law.”
The mayor added that councillors have not yet reached a consensus on how to come up with a substantially different bylaw change partly because they don’t want to repeat mistakes made in the 1990s when the highway commercial zone at exit 504 was developed.
Councillor Allison Butcher said that while she would love to see the Alders open a drive-thru, it’s important to plan carefully for development at exit 506.
“This whole process has really, for me, shown how under-developed exit 506 is,” she said adding that commercial development at exit 504 had proceeded too rapidly.
“There’s so many businesses up there,” she said, “and for years we had a lot of issues around traffic flow, there was so many safety concerns up there and it’s because it all happened like that.”
Coun. Butcher told Alder she feels that exit 506 has great potential and the town clearly needs more businesses and more jobs.
“So this is an opportunity for us to look at it and figure out a way to lay it out so that if and when you put in a drive-thru, or anybody puts in a hotel or increases their propane business, or whatever it is they’re going to do to bring in more jobs and more business, that it’s going to be done safely and in a way that will work really well there.”
Wendy Alder warned council again on Tuesday that without a drive-thru, she may have to close the Tantramar Gas Bar.
And single-mother Kerry Simpson told council her 16-year-old daughter, who works part-time at the gas bar, has already had her hours cut because of a drop in business.
“As part of a low-income family who experiences struggles every day, how do we not allow business to expand and create more jobs and more hours in our town?” she asked council.
Later, during an interview, Simpson added that her daughter has lost the equivalent of a full shift per paycheque meaning she has less money to help her save for university, pay for her clothing and phone bills while contributing some grocery money to the family budget.
Simpson says council should stop delaying the Alders’ request for a Robin’s drive-thru that would keep jobs in Sackville.
“Talking about economic growth and Moloney [Electric] shutting down and the cost of groceries going up and the cost of everything going up, it’s a no-brainer,” she said.
To read the motion council passed concerning highway exit 506, click here.
For some unknown reason the Mayor and Councillors of the Town of Sackville have not supported Economic Development for maybe 40 years even though they pledge that when they run for office — EVERY TIME. They do support having a lot more ‘flower beds’ though once they get seated in Council Chambers. They should be regretting their actions now as the price of the larger older homes is now plummeting as young couples are just not moving here to work and raise their families. We have had a stagnant population for the last 30 years and have been fortunate to have that, mainly because of the larger families that were raised here years ago and a bulk of the current population is a result of this. Soon though, as this Sackvillian senior population diminishes, we will have a major excess of housing problem unless employment is created for outsiders to arrive to fill their accommodations. There is more to running a town than to think that MOUNT ALLISON UNIVERSITY is our forever savior. Mount A, as far as I know, has had a drop in enrollment of 400 over the past 3 years.
What a gutless bunch of elected officials.
“Gutless” is posting a rude remark and only using your first name.
As a former councilor who chose not to re-offer in the last election due the fact I work out of town which restricted my ability to attend liaison meetings and the status quo approach the staff, Mayor and Councilors took over the 4 years I was there, I am not surprised by this lame excuse that council has come up with to skirt this issue.
The Mayor saying they can’t break the law is a cop-out to solving a problem.
The true issue is that he could not get consensus from the council on an approach to take to amend the by-law. Had there been a group of councilors who truly wanted to help this business then something could have been done.
I expected better things of the new Mayor and 3 new councilors one being a former business owner who actually had to shut his business down and find a new job.
This group is not representing, they are not visionaries and none of them understand what it is like to have to leave your community on a daily basis to work.
They are status quo. They have jobs in our town or are retired, they do not understand.
My concern is we will never turn the corner and we will remain the sleepy little town that once was abundant with both blue collar and white collar jobs.
I will not forget this decision when the time comes in 2020 to elect another Mayor and council.
I appreciate councils’ need for patience on this matter because, as Councillor Butcher pointed out, the Exit 506 game plan was anything but.
In fact, at the same time the ill-planned 506 engineering miracle was taking shape, the town was also on its continuous cycle of trying to make something of its struggling industrial park.
In light of this, one wonders if maybe delopment should have been focused at Exit 504 to begin with.
That said, if council is sincere about wanting to now give development a chance at this corner, they should get the ball rolling and open it the Hell up. They are either going to do it or they are not. Wendy could be employing new people there right now if they hadn’t dragged their feet all this time.
But wait, the industrial park still seems to be on hold, so we must consider that if it suddenly takes off all that drive through traffic might just get in the way.
Give me a break! You really don’t have a good excuse to be holding this up any longer.